In honor of National Healthcare Decision Day on April 16, 2013, our Pittsburgh Family Law Firm brings you the following information on Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment.
What is a POLST?
POLST stands for Pennsylvania Order for Life Sustaining Treatment. This Order memorializes a patient's wishes regarding medical treatments that the client would/would not want to receive when the patient has an end-stage medical condition, or the patient is in a state of permanent unconsciousness.
In February 2011, a standard form for a POLST was approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Although a POLST is drafted using a standard form, these documents have much significance outside of just a form. They ensure the patient understands the end-of-life treatments they will be receiving and can make decisions regarding their end-of-life care in all healthcare situations.
What is covered in a POLST?
The POLST form approved in 2011 has five parts. The first part addresses instructions for CPR if the patient does not have a pulse and is not breathing. The second part, Section B, gives instruction regarding Medical Interventions in the event that a patient has a pulse and/or is breathing, and specifically addresses comfort measures, limited additional interventions, and full treatment directives. This section addresses the patient's wishes for transportation to the hospital. The third and fourth parts of the POLST, Sections C and D, are sections that apply once the patient is at the hospital. These sections address whether the patient can be given antibiotics and artificial nutrition/hydration once in the hospital. The last section, Section E, addresses the necessary conversation that must exist between the patient and his/her physician, PA or nurse practitioner. Both the patient and his/her doctor must sign this form as well as communicate as to the contents of the form and the patient's wishes.
When considering how many important decisions must be made throughout the hospitalization process, it is practical and advisable to have a POLST in place so that all of your specific wishes are followed when you are not in the frame of mind to make them. No one wants to plan for the worst, but you must remember that having a POLST may take the burden off of your family members and loved ones from having to make these difficult decisions on your behalf.
Contact our office if you are interested in obtaining a POLST form today!