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Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment: Know the law

When you go into the hospital, you may decide that you want to have a Medical Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment, or MOLST order. This order tells the doctors and nurses working with you what they should do if you suffer a life-threatening condition in their care.

For some people, this order gives them a way to tell others not to resuscitate them if they go into cardiac arrest or have another serious condition develop. The doctors and nurses should be aware of the order and follow the instructions of the order, even if they believe that the patient could be saved.

If the doctors or nurses fail to follow this order, it's a serious violation of the law. With a MOLST order, the patient should be allowed to pass away without interference. Failing to do so can prolong the patient's life, which could end up costing the family financially and emotionally. For some family members, seeing a dying loved one brought back against their wishes is extremely distressing.

The courts do recognize that unwanted life can cause harm to the patient and families. Courts have ruled in the past that the patient or designated agent has the right to make these decisions and that medical providers must follow them. Failing to do so is a violation of patient rights.

State agencies do penalize nursing facilities that resuscitate residents who have Do Not Resuscitate orders. In Florida, nursing homes have been charged $16,000 for violations. Today, you can view nursing home comparisons to see which facilities follow through on the orders in the interests of the patient.

Source: The New York Times, "The Patients Were Saved. That’s Why the Families Are Suing.," Paula Span, April 10, 2017

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