Healthcare

Montana Healthcare Directives and Living Wills


What Montana Residents Need to Know About Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney

If you became ill or injured and were unable to speak for yourself, would your loved ones know what kind of medical treatment you want? Would your family members and doctors be legally bound to carry out your wishes?

Without valid documents directing your health care, your wishes for medical treatment may not be known or honored. In an extreme case, your family members could end up in court, arguing over what’s best for you. You can avoid outcomes like these by preparing two basic legal documents.

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The Best Sources for Montana Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney Forms

If you've decided it's time to prepare documents directing your health care, congratulations. It may be challenging to think about the kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want at the end of life, but your completed forms are almost guaranteed to bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones.

To get started, you'll need the right forms to fill out. In Montana, that means obtaining forms for a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney. These are sometimes called "Advance Directives" and combined into a single form. more...  

What Can I Cover in My Living Will?

Both federal and state law give you the power to direct your own medical care. This means that you can say whether you want life-support measures -- such as a respirator or feeding tubes -- at the end of your life.

In truth, you could use a pen and the back of a napkin to scribble a wish that you not be placed on life support and, if those wishes were "clear and convincing," the law would honor them. But have no doubt: The best place to write out your health care wishes is in a living will. By clearly expressing your wishes in a document approved by your state, you can remove confusion and potential conflict from a stressful situation.  more...  

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How Do I Choose a Health Care Agent?

A health care agent is the person you name to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. Some states use a different name for a health care agent, such as “proxy,” “representative,” or “attorney in fact.” Montana uses the term “agent.” You will name this person when you make your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

What Your Health Care Agent Can Do

If you can’t communicate because of a serious illness or injury, your health care agent is legally authorized to step in and carry out your wishes for medical care, making any necessary treatment decisions along the way. Your agent will have the sole legal authority to speak for you, taking into account all that he or she knows about your desires for treatment and your personal beliefs. Your agent is not required to consult family members before making decisions on your behalf, unless your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care explicitly requires that.

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Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?

You can make a living will without a lawyer’s help. In fact, most states have designed their health care forms -- called Declarations and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care in Montana -- with the specific intention that you will complete them yourself. Usually, you’ll need to consult a health care professional or an attorney only if there is something about your forms that you don’t understand.

How to Make Your Own Health Care Documents

Though you’re not likely to need professional help, you do need to take certain steps to ensure that your health care documents are legally valid. Each state has its own rules for creating health care documents; you’ll want to be sure you find and complete the right forms for your state. After your forms are filled out, you must finalize them correctly, including signing them in front of witnesses or a notary public, according to your state’s laws.

You can find the forms and rules for Montana using the links below.

When You May Want Professional Help

There are a few circumstances in which it makes good sense to make your health care documents with the help of a health care professional or estate planning lawyer.

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How Do I Get a DNR Order in Montana?

A DNR order, short for "do not resuscitate order," alerts emergency personnel that you do not wish to receive cardiopulonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency. It is a medical order that must be signed by a doctor.

In Montana, a DNR order may go by the term "Comfort One," which was the name of the state's DNR program for many years. These days, it is more likely that a DNR order will be included in a document called a "Providers Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment" or POLST. (See What Is a POLST Form?)

DNR orders are used primarily by people who are already critically ill and feel strongly that they do not want life-prolonging treatment when close to death. If you do not have a DNR order, emergency medical personnel must use all available measures, no matter how invasive, to save your life.

Getting a DNR order in the hospital. When you are admitted to a hospital, your doctor can add a DNR order to your medical record. This may happen in a number of ways:

  • You can request the DNR order yourself.
  • If you are close to death and unable to communicate, and you have a living will or advance directive that makes your wishes clear, your doctor can put the DNR order in place.
  • If you have appointed a health care agent and a DNR order is consistent with your known wishes, your agent can authorize the DNR order for you.
  • If you have not made documents directing your health care, the person who is legally authorized to make health care decisions for you (usually your spouse or next closest relative) may be able to authorize a DNR order, if they believe it is what you would want.

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What Is a POLST Form?

A POLST form is a document that tells health care professionals what kind of medical treatments you do or do not wish to receive at the end of your life. POLST is short for “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment,” though the document may go by a different name in your state.

How POLST Forms Work

A POLST form is a medical order that a doctor or other approved health care professional may make for you if you are:

  • nearing the end of your life, and
  • admitted to a hospital or enter another health care setting, such as hospice.

The POLST form gives directions to medical providers about life-sustaining treatments, such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), intubation, and feeding tubes. If you move from one health care setting to another, you POLST form will travel with you.

To be valid, health care provider who helps you make the POLST must sign the form and place it in your medical records. It will be printed on brightly colored paper so it can’t easily be overlooked.

Why You Still Need a Living Will

Even though a POLST form addresses many of the same issues covered by a DNR order and a living will, it is not a complete substitute for a properly prepared set of advance directives.

You cannot, for example, use a POLST form to name a health care agent to carry out your health care wishes. For that, you need a durable power of attorney for health care. Nor can you make a POLST form in advance -- while you are healthy -- to specify your treatment wishes for the future. To do that, you need a living will.

How to Get a POLST Form

POLSTs are not yet available in all states. Where they are used, they may go by another name, such as POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment), MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), or COLST (Clinician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).

If Montana offers a POLST or similar form, you can find out what it is called and learn more about it by clicking the link below. If Montana is not on this list, see the end of this article for more information.

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What Is a Mental Health Care Directive?

A Mental Health Care Directive is a document that describes your wishes for care and treatment if you have a psychiatric emergency. It takes effect only during times when you are unable to communicate or make your own decisions. A Mental Health Care Directive is sometimes called an Advance Mental Health Care Directive or a Psychiatric Advance Directive.

Besides stating your treatment preferences, a mental health care directive usually names a trusted person to speak on your behalf. This person, often called your agent, works with mental health care providers to ensure you get the kind of care you want.

How Mental Health Care Directives Differ from Standard Advance Directives

A typical Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will gives instructions about end-of-life health care. But a Mental Health Care Directive may be used during periods of serious mental illness at any stage of your life. It focuses on treatment concerns that arise during psychiatric crises, such as hospitalization, medications, doctors, and therapists. more...