MOLST – Getting Your End-of-Life Wishes into Your Doctor’s Orders

Massachusetts has recently enacted the MOLST program – that’s Medical Orders on Life-Sustaining Treatment. This is a solution to a question that a lot of clients ask: “How do I make sure my kids do what I want with end-of-life care?” Or more typically, clients say, “I want a living will.”

MOLST is better than a living will, and it goes further than a health care proxy. Until MOLST, you might share with your children what kind of treatments and care you do and don’t want as you approach the end of your life, and you might get a chance to talk about it with your doctor, and then you hope for the best as you gradually come to rely on others to make decisions for you.

With MOLST, you have a conversation with your doctor while you are able, and then – this is the key – the doctor turns those into “doctor’s orders.” The MOLST form is a pink sheet of paper, and once that is in your medical record, it’s going to carry a lot of weight.

With MOLST, you get to think about and talk to your doctor about the things that are already on your mind – would you want CPR? Ventilation and intubation? Dialysis? Artificial nutrition and hydration? And then you turn them into medical orders. That means that there is a pretty good chance (though no system is foolproof) that as you decline, your medical providers and family will not only know your wishes, but will honor them. Having them in your record as doctor’s orders makes all the difference.

What about changing your mind? Yes, you can. At any time, you can talk to your medical staff about changing a prior decision in the MOLST.

Family members may ask what to do if a parent or loved one is already at the point where they can’t discuss end-of-life care options themselves with their doctor – the MOLST process permits a health care proxy or guardian to review end-of-life choices with the doctor as well.

For more information, and to see a sample form, see the MOLST site. It’s a well written, easy to read site.

Please note that the MOLST process is meant for people with advanced illness or injuries. If you are healthier, then the best vehicle for sharing your end-of-life wishes is something like the Your Way workbook.