Virginia POST Forms (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment)


Relatively new to the lifetime planning scene is the POLST form, a type of portable medical order that works together with a person’s Advance Medical Directive. “POLST” stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. In Virginia, this is called a POST form (no “L”) and stands for Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment.


A POST form “is an approach to advance care planning for patients who are considered to be at risk for a life-threatening clinical event because they have a serious life-limiting medical condition, which may include advanced frailty. The [POST form] process emphasizes eliciting, documenting and honoring patients’ preferences about the treatments they want to receive during a medical emergency or as they decline in health.”[1] These treatment wishes are then documented by the physician on the POST form.


For healthy individuals, an Advance Medical Directive (“AMD”) is generally sufficient. An AMD is most useful for emergency situations, when an individual finds themselves in a vegetative state or otherwise lacks decision-making mental capacity. A POST form is complementary, appropriate only for individuals whose diagnoses indicate a high probability of death within the next 12 months.[2] Page 5 of the linked PDF contains a helpful chart highlighting the differences between an AMD and a POST. One of the biggest distinctions is that a POST form is not a substitute for naming a health care agent or durable power of attorney for health care.


For more information, visit the National POLST website and the Virginia POST website.

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