Wade Law Blog

What is a Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment form?

Feb 17, 2016| BY: Wade Law Offices

There is a type of health care directive in California called a Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. It is a physician’s authorization that assists you in maintaining control over your medical care at the end of life. It is similar to a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in that it communicates to medical staff and other health care professionals your wishes concerning the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in case of an emergency. A POLST form can be used simultaneously with, or in lieu of, a DNR order. Moreover, the POLST form can supply other information regarding your wishes for health care at the end of life.

A physician, or nurse practitioner or physician assistant under supervision of the physician, is required to sign the POLST form. If you are admitted to a medical institution or other health care environment, a health care professional can assist you in creating a POLST form. If none of your health care providers ask you if you would like a POLST form, you can request one. In California, POLST forms are generally printed on bright pink paper in order for it to be easily found among your medical records.

One crucial difference between a POLST form and a DNR order is that a POLST form also consists of directions for life-sustaining procedures in addition to CPR, including intubation, the use of antibiotics and feeding tubes. Although the POLST form can assist health care professionals in comprehending your wishes, it is not a replacement for an advance health care directive, which offers more thorough information, including details concerning your health care agent, more comprehensive information about your health care preferences and your wishes regarding organ donation.

If you are confronted with a life-threatening illness, then you should consider a POLST along with a health care directive because a declaration and a power of attorney may be insufficient to prevent health care providers from resuscitating a patient during an emergency. However, if you are in good health, then an advance health care directive will suffice to provide health professionals with your wishes in the event of a medical crisis.

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