We’ve all heard of advance directives, living wills and health care power of attorneys, but Oregon Health and Science University developed something a little different – the “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (POLST). They describe it as:
a program designed to improve the quality of care people receive at the end of life. It is based on effective communication of patient wishes, documentation of medical orders on a brightly colored form and a promise by health care professionals to honor these wishes
You can see their sample forms by clicking here. The forms contain less legal jargon for the reader to move through, important in an emergency situation. They’re more check box oriented, use more medical terminology, and are brightly colored to attract attention in a medical record as someone is getting transferred. It’s designed for medical professionals that are actually responding to a situation. Think of the POLST as a living will – on steroids.
Several states have adopted and endorsed the form. Several other states are working on it. A recent New York Times article states:
The need for such a document arose because “nursing facility residents were being transferred to hospitals in the middle of the night,” explained Susan Hickman, a geriatric psychologist at Indiana University School of Nursing. “Families arrived the next day alarmed to find their loved ones getting pretty aggressive treatments like intubation” — measures the patients may have wanted to avoid.
A P.O.L.S.T. form is meant for someone with serious illness or advanced frailty, someone approaching death and considering such questions. A physician writes it, in the technical language health providers know and use, after conversations with the patient.
“It’s not just a piece of paper; it’s a program that requires coordination and ongoing training,” Dr. Hickman said. Everyone in your local health care system — doctors, nurses, E.M.T.’s, hospital and nursing home staff— has to be on board. Varying state regulations also come into play.
For more information straight from the source, visit the official POLST site.