You may have heard about a new kind of health care directive in South Carolina, called a Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) form. Here, we discuss what a POST form is and how South Carolina residents may soon be able to benefit from it.
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 is also designed to provide other information about your wishes for end-of-life health care, as explained next.
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. A POST form can be an important tool to help medical providers understand your wishes at a glance, but it is not a substitute for properly prepared living will and durable power of attorney for health care.
Taken together, a living will and health care power of attorney provide more information than a POST form, including details about your health care decisionmaker (called your "agent"), more complete health care wishes, and your preference for organ donation. Therefore, if you make a POST form, you do not need a DNR order, but you should still complete traditional health care directives to provide a full set of wishes about your care.
For details about preparing health care directives, see South Carolina Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney: What You Need to Know.
POST-type forms are now available in most of the states in the U.S. They go by a variety of names; the most common is POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). South Carolina is currently conducting a pilot program for its own POST form. The pilot program will bring the POST to the counties of Charleston and Greenville, with the intent of expanding the form's availability if all goes well.
If you are facing a serious illness and are interested in a POST form, you should talk with your doctor or ask about it when you enter a medical facility or health care setting. If the form is available in your area, a medical professional will help you complete the POST. The form will be legally valid only if signed by a doctor and you (or your legally appointed health care decisionmaker). The POST will be placed in your medical record and will travel with you if you move from one health care setting to another. You can change or cancel the POST at any time, as long as you are capable of communicating your wishes.
To learn more about South Carolina's POST pilot program, visit the website of the South Carolina Hospital Association. In addition, you can view a sample South Carolina POST form and find more information about POST forms at the South Carolina POST website.
For general information about how to document your health care wishes, see the Living Wills & Medical Power of Attorney section of Nolo.com.