You may have heard about a new kind of health care directive in West Virginia, called a Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (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. A POST form may be used in addition to -- or instead of -- a DNR order. The POST form may also provide other information about your wishes for end-of-life health care, as explained just below.
A health care professional can help you create a POST form if you enter a medical facility or health care setting -- such as a hospital, nursing home, or hospice care in a facility or at home. If a member of the medical staff does not ask you whether you want to create a POST form, you may ask for one.
To be legally valid, a POST form must be signed by:
In West Virginia, a POST form is usually printed on bright pink 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 medical power of attorney.
Taken together, a living will and medical power of attorney provide more information than a POST form, including details about your health care agent, more complete health care wishes, and your preference for organ donation.
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 health care power of attorney 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 need a POST in addition to traditional health care directives. That’s because a living will and medical power of attorney 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. 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 your other health care directives.
For details about preparing health care directives, see West Virginia Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney: What You Need to Know.
To learn more, and to view an example of the West Virginia POST form, visit the website of the West Virginia University Center for Ethics and Law. To prepare a POST form for yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor.
For general information about how to document your health care wishes, see the Living Wills & Medical Powers of Attorney section of Nolo.com.