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POST Orders

A complete estate plan usually includes not only a Living Will or Health Care Directive, but also a Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment (POST Order), as well. Though similar, these documents govern different circumstances.

Living Wills

Generally, a Living Will addresses your artificial life support, nutrition, and hydration desires that are to be administered in the event that you are unable to indicate those wishes. These are instructions that only apply in circumstances of a terminal condition, injury, or illness or when you have been diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.

The Living Will specifies whether you prefer medical life support to be continued or withdrawn and whether you want (a) food, (b) water, (c) food and water, or (d) neither food nor water should those circumstances or conditions arise. Living Wills are usually prepared by your attorney.

POST Orders

A Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment – a POST Order -- addresses more pressing questions that are encountered in the face of a debilitating serious injury, illness, heart attack, or stoke. Your POST Order enables you to indicate whether or not you desire:

  • Resuscitation;
  • Medical Interventions that can be any level from limited to aggressive, or they can just be comfort-based. This may include such provisions and treatments as food and water, oxygen, medication, pain relief, intubation, ventilators, or cardioversion to restore abnormal heartbeat patterns; and
  • Administration or withholding of nutrition, hydration, antibiotics, and/or blood products.

Your POST Order must be prepared and countersigned by your physician.

This is an important document. Unfortunately, sometimes medical care providers may not be as diligent in asking if you have a POST Order as they are in asking whether you have a Living Will. If you want to have a POST Order, you should let your regular physician know so that one can be prepared the next time you visit with him or her. It only takes a couple of minutes to have one prepared and added to your medical records.

One last important detail concerns the question of where your POST Order should be stored. Your physician will usually retain a copy in your medical records. Beyond that, it is best to attach a copy of your POST Order to your refrigerator at home. Emergency medical responders expect this. So, if they respond to a medical emergency in your home, as soon as they arrive, they will go check your refrigerator to see if you have a POST Order. If so, they will read it quickly and then administer care in accordance with your wishes.

So, once your POST Order has been prepared, place a copy in an envelope marked “POST Order.” Then attach the envelope to your refrigerator either by tape or with a magnet. Finally, store the original POST Order with your other Estate Plan documents.

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