What is a POST Form and Do You Need One?

A Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) is a set of medical instructions for health care professionals to recognize and honor a patient's treatment preferences for life-sustaining measures, such as CPR, a breathing tube and feeding tube. It is usually recommended for terminally ill or frail seniors who want to ensure their end-of-life wishes are followed by emergency personnel, doctors and medical staff.

A POST, or sometimes called a POLST form, is a one-page document, that becomes an official medical order once it is signed by a doctor.

Getting started

Search online for POST forms for your state. Doctors, hospital staff or hospice social workers can provide forms. Get it signed by a doctor and keep it handy with other medical documents.

Some patients at the end stage of a serious illness choose to display a POST form so it's easily seen by emergency personnel. Without a POST form, emergency staff are typically required to provide aggressive treatment to keep patients alive. 

How is a POST different from a DNR order?

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order focuses only on a person's preference to not receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation if they stop breathing or their heart stops beating. The DNR does not address other medical treatments. A POST form typically covers preferences for a wider range of treatments, including CPR.

How is a POST different from an advance directive?

A POST form is not a substitute for an advance directive. An advance health care directive provides more information than a POST form, including details about a health care agent or proxy, more complete health care wishes, and preference for organ donation. Completing an advance directive is appropriate for anyone at any stage of health.