You may have heard about a new kind of health care directive in Virginia, called a Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) form. Here, we discuss what a POST form is and how Virginia residents may 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 tubes for breathing or for receiving nutrition and hydration. 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 a properly prepared advance medical directive.
An advance directive provides more information than a POST form, including details about your health care agent and a more complete set of health care wishes. Therefore, if you make a POST form, you do not need a DNR order, but you should still complete a traditional health care directive to provide comprehensive instructions about your care.
For details about preparing health care directives, see Virginia Living Wills and Advance Medical Directives: What You Need to Know.
POST forms (often known as POLST forms, short for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) are now available in most of the states in the U.S. Virginia does not currently have a statewide POST program, but the form is under development and available in many areas. 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 other health care setting, such as hospice.
If the form is available in your area, a medical professional will help you complete the POST. The form is legally valid only if signed by a doctor and you (or your legally appointed health care representative). 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.
For general information about how to document your health care wishes, see the Living Wills & Medical Power of Attorney section of Nolo.com.