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What is a POST Order?

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

Living Will

Broadly speaking, the Living Will addresses the artificial life support, nutrition, and hydration desires that you want administered in the event that you are unable to express those desires. These are instructions that only apply in the event of a terminal condition, injury, or illness or in the event you are diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state.

The Living Will specifies whether you want medical life support continued or withdrawn and whether you want (a) food, (b) water, (c) food and water, or (d) neither food nor water should those conditions or circumstances arise. Living Wills are usually prepared with the assistance of an attorney.

POST Order

A Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment addresses more pressing questions that arise in the face of a debilitating serious injury, illness, heart attack, or stoke. The POST order enables you to specify whether or not you want:

  • Resuscitation;
  • Medical Interventions that are either (a) aggressive, (b) limited, or (c) comfort-based only. This may include such treatments and provisions as food and water, oxygen, medication, pain relief, intubation, ventilators, cardioversion to restore abnormal heartbeat patterns, and other options; and
  • Administration of nutrition, hydration, antibiotics, and/or blood products.

As its name indicates, the POST Order is prepared and countersigned by your physician.

This is an important medical document. Unfortunately, medical care providers are not 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 prepared, you should let your regular physician know the next time you visit with him or her. It only takes a few minutes to have one prepared and added to your medical records.

One last important detail has to do with where your POST Order should be stored. Your physician will have retained a copy in your medical records. Beyond that, best practices include attaching a copy of your POST Order to your refrigerator at home. Emergency medical responders are aware of this practice. So, if they are called to respond to a medical emergency in your home, as soon as they arrive, they will immediately go check your refrigerator to see if you have a POST Order. If you do, they will read it quickly and then administer care in accordance with your wishes.

So, once you have a POST Order prepared, place a copy in an envelope marked “POST Order” and attach the envelope to your refrigerator either by tape or with a magnet. And then store the original POST Order with your other Estate Plan documents.

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