Massachusetts has a few forms that people need to be aware of that affect their health care and the treatment that they want. When to use the forms can be confusing. Below is a summary of each one and when you would want to consider filling it out.
A health care proxy is a form that appoints someone to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become unable. This form can be obtained from your doctor or hospital, or at this link, called: advanced directives. This document can be filled out at any time (and everyone over 18 should have one) and is only activated when your doctor believe you are unable to make health care decisions for you.
A living will is a document that provides your health care agent with instructions about the type of care you want. The Five Wishes Living Will is one example. Some people prefer to write their own, or they might use one provided by their church or religious institution. This document can be filled out at any time. They are not legally binding documents, but are rather intended to provide guidance to your agent.
A Comfort Care/Do Not Resuscitate directs ambulance services and EMTs to not provide resuscitation services (CPR, ventilation, chest compressions, defibrillations, etc) to you. Without this form, they must resuscitate, even if a health care agent is telling them not to, or your living will says different. A DNR in a hospital setting directs the hospital stuff to refrain from resuscitating you. This form is filled out by your doctor based on your wishes when you are seriously ill or medically frail.
The Medical Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) is also filled out by your doctor, based on your wishes. Unlike a DNR which is used to refuse medical care, the MOLST can be used to refuse or request medical care. The MOLST form applies to more treatments than the DNR such as CPR, ventilation, dialysis, intubation, feeding tube, and artificial hydration. For each of the treatments you can choose no treatment, use the treatment, use it for short term/trial basis, or undecided. This form would be filled out when you were seriously ill.
These forms are all voluntary. No one can make you sign one or tell you what to put on it. You should talk to your doctor about your health care options and make sure that you name people you can trust to help you if you are unable to speak for yourself.