Most people do not like to be faced with reminders of their mortality, but the decisions that must be made in a medical emergency or at the end of a person’s life can be made much simpler with some advance planning.
Here is a rundown of legal documents that people in Massachusetts may want to have handy when serious medical problems arise.
Durable power of attorney for health care
As Findlaw describes, a durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document that designates who is in charge of a patient’s medical decisions if they become unable to make decisions for themselves. A person who holds a power of attorney can make health care decisions that are not specified in a living will or medical order, but cannot make health care decisions that run contrary to a patient’s advance medical directives.
A living will is a document that describes the medical treatment a person would like to receive if he or she is unable to make his own medical decisions. It can include instructions about resuscitation, blood transfusions and medication. It can also include instructions about end-of-life care, such as whether nourishment, water, pain medication or artificial respiration should be continued if the patient falls into a persistent vegetative state. Living wills are generally not legally binding, but can provide essential guidance to family members during a medical crisis.
Medical orders for life sustaining treatment
According to Massachusetts Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, medical orders describing life-ending treatment can be an effective way for a patient to ensure that his or her wishes are followed. A MOLST is written by a medical provider after a discussion of medical options with the patient. It formalizes the patient’s health care decisions into a document that functions like a prescription for medical treatment. When a patient presents a valid MOLST to a licensed medical provider in Massachusetts, it will be followed, but it may not be valid outside of the state.