Patients Make Final Care Wishes Known

It’s called a POLST and it’s printed in pink. This new document gives seriously ill people—or those in very poor health, regardless of age—a way to ensure that their care wishes are honored when it comes to end-of-life medical treatment, according to Dr. Van Aken.

The POLST—or Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment—was created by a bill authored by California State Sen. Lois Wolk that was signed into law in 2009. Filling out a POLST form is entirely voluntary, but California law requires that the physician orders in a POLST be followed by healthcare providers. The POLST allows an individual to stipulate their wishes regarding CPR, aggressiveness of medical care, and artificial nutrition.

The POLST is signed by both a doctor and the patient and the original stays with the patient as they move through facilities. For those in a hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility, the form will be in their medical record or file. If a patient is at home, it should be displayed in a visible place.

Without a POLST form, emergency medical personnel, nurses and doctors would not know the patient’s treatment wishes, notes Dr. Van Aken. In this case, a patient would most likely receive all possible treatments, whether they were wanted or not. Talking about treatment choices with loved ones and your doctor before a problem occurs can be a guide for them and help ensure the patient gets the care they want.

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