You may have heard about a new kind of health care directive in Michigan, called a Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST or MI-POST) form. Here, we discuss what a POST form is and when you might need one.
A POST form is a doctor’s order that helps you keep control over medical care at the end of life. Like a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, the form tells emergency medical personnel and other health care providers whether or not to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency. The POST form may also provide other information about your wishes for end-of-life health care, as explained below.
In Michigan, the POST form is currently available in some health care settings in just a handful of communities, including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Houghton, and Marquette. The state is currently evaluating whether and how to make the form available statewide.
A health care professional can help you create a POST form if you enter a participating medical care facility or setting. To be legally valid, the following people must sign the POST:
A POST form is usually printed on brightly colored paper so it will easily stand out in your medical records. The form travels with you if you move from one health care setting to another. You can change it or cancel it at any time.
A POST form differs from a DNR order in one important way: A POST form also includes directions about life-sustaining measures in addition to CPR, such as intubation, antibiotic use, and feeding tubes. The POST form helps medical providers understand your wishes at a glance, but it is not a substitute for a properly prepared living will and patient advocate designation. Taken together, a living will and patient advocate designation provide more information than a POST form, including information about your health care agent, your wishes for organ donation after death, and other health care instructions.
You need to consider a POST only if you're facing a life-threatening medical condition. If you're healthy, you need only a living will and a patient advocate designation to provide a full set of wishes for your treatment in the event of an unexpected accident or medical crisis.
On the other hand, a patient diagnosed with a terminal illness or frailty that requires care in a medical setting -- or ongoing care at home -- may benefit from a POST in addition to traditional health care directives. That’s because traditional directives may not be enough to prevent medical personnel from resuscitating a patient in an emergency. For that, it's important to have a medical order such as a POST or DNR order. If you feel strongly that you don’t want emergency measures at the end of life -- or if you’re caring for someone who feels that way -- find out about making a POST in addition to traditional health care directives.
For details about making health care directives in Michigan, see Michigan Living Wills and Patient Advocate Designations: What You Need to Know.
To learn more about the MI-POST program and to view a sample Michigan POST form, visit the website of the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Michigan.
For general information about how to document your health care wishes, see the Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney section of Nolo.com.