Virginia gives us several options to help us guide our medical decisions, even when we no longer have the physical or mental ability to make decisions for ourselves. Three important documents related to elder law to consider are an Advance Medical Directive, a Do Not Resuscitate Order, and a Physician Order for Scope of Treatment. These documents are frequently confused, so here is a brief overview of each document.

Advance Medical Directive

An “AMD” is a legal document that appoints a decision maker to make medical decisions if you cannot make them for yourself. An advance medical directive typically gives instructions or guidance for making end of life decisions, such as in the event of a terminal illness or a vegetative state. An AMD can also guide your agent whether to execute a do not resuscitate order. The authority to make a disposition of one’s final remains may be included in the advance medical directive or in a separate document. An adult of sound mind can execute an AMD at any time.

A well-drafted, properly executed advance medical directive can help a person’s loved ones by allowing a decision maker to act immediately. Without an AMD, the person’s loved ones may end up in court for a judge to decide who gets to make medical decisions and the medical decisions that can be made.

Durable Do Not Resuscitate Order

A “DNR” is a physician’s order stating whether you wish to receive potentially lifesaving treatment in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. Resuscitation that can be withheld includes cardiac compression, endotracheal intubation and other advanced airway management, artificial ventilation, defibrillation, administration of cardiac resuscitative medications, and related procedures. A DNR can only be provided by health care providers and applies to these limited medical events.

Physician Order for Scope of Treatment

A “POST” is a physician’s order that is broader than a DNR. POST may include a DNR, and also includes directions about life-sustaining measures, such as tubes for breathing or for receiving nutrition and hydration. POST can help medical providers and your agent under an AMD understand your wishes at a glance, but it is not a substitute for a properly prepared AMD.

POSTs may be provided by a physician when the patient anticipates less than a year of life.

The McDermottWard law firm is very experienced with elder law in Hampton Roads. If you wish to make your medical wishes known, please call 757-722-0611 to schedule a consultation. During this time of Coronavirus social distancing, we are happy to schedule telephone conferences.

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