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Legal Notes: A Quick Look at the MOLST and Health Care Proxy

Pam OddyAttorney Pamela OddyRecently, I had a routine wellness exam with my primary care physician. During the course of the meeting, my doctor introduced me (from the patient's perspective) to the MOLST. A number of my clients have provided me with copies of their completed MOLST forms for my files, so I was already acquainted with the form.

MOLST stands for Massachusetts Order of Life Sustaining Treatments. It is double-sided, and it asks health care questions such as whether or not you want to be intubated or fed by artificial means or resuscitated or go on dialysis. The MOLST form is on hot pink paper and is an important part of a person's arsenal in directing health care treatment. lt is done in conjunction with one's doctor so that the specific medical issues may be discussed as to what exactly these questions may entail.

Hospitals and doctors’ offices have Health Care Proxy forms that may be given to patients upon request.

At the same meeting, my doctor asked me for a copy of my Health Care Proxy for his file. Whereupon it prompted me to examine the documents I had drafted for myself. I found that I had not updated my Health Care Proxy in the last 21 years. My children were not mentioned on my Proxy as decision-makers because they were so young, or not yet born, at the time I signed that form. I immediately redrafted the Proxy to include my children (after my spouse) as designated choices to make medical treatment decisions for me should I not be able to speak for myself or direct my own health care. I also took advantage of the opportunity to update my Will and Durable Power of Attorney, but that is the subject of another article.

Hospitals and doctors' offices have Health Care Proxy forms that may be given to patients upon request. They are simple forms to complete and, once completed, copies should be given to the person's primary care physician as well as to the estate planning attorney. Hospitals and nursing homes have frequently called my office, for example, requesting a copy of a particular patient's Health Care Proxy. When l draft Proxies for my clients, I will routinely make multiple copies on lime green paper so that they may be spotted easily in a medical file and I will direct my client to hand out those green copies not only to the people named as decision makers on the Proxy but also to my client's primary care physician.

Everyone would be well advised to have a Health Care Proxy as part of one's estate planning documents.

The views expressed in this column represent general information. To address your particular and specific needs, consult your own attorney. If you need help with referral to an attorney, contact the Franklin County Bar Association at (413) 773-9839 or the Worcester County Bar Association at (978) 752-1311. Elder law resources may be found through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Massachusetts Chapter, online or 617-566-5640.

Community Legal Aid (CLA) provides legal services free to people age 60 and older for civil legal matters, with an emphasis on access to health care coverage (MassHealth and Medicare) and public benefits as well as tenants’ rights. A request for legal assistance can be made by phone at 413-774-3747 or toll-free 1-855-252-5342 during their intake hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and Wednesday from 1:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.) or any time online.