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Understanding the legal ramifications of a POLST

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2020 | Firm News

The Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment is a document designed to help a patient receive the type of end-of-life care he or she desires. As a medical professional, understanding this form helps you give better treatment to patients and to avoid legal problems.

The POLST movement gained momentum in the state in the early 2000s and the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health approved the program in 2010. The program is in place in throughout the U.S.

The main features of POLST

According to papolst.org, an educational group on the program, the purpose of a POLST is to provide a clear mechanism to articulate a patient’s preferences for end-of-life treatment. It seeks to turn treatment preferences and advance directives into medical direction. The POLST program works in concert with a person’s advanced directive and is usually filled out and signed after an advanced directive, usually when a patient is facing death within a year. For validation, the form must have the following information: the patient name and signature, the completion of Section A (resuscitation orders) and the signature of a qualified medical professional. Possible missteps in the program include the following:

  • Using the form for a healthy patient
  • Signing the form without a meaningful conversation
  • Allowing patients to fill out the form without assistance
  • Failing to review the form

The POLST form

A key implementation of the POLST program includes a legal team and pastoral care. The two-page form, available at papolst.org, should be printed off an bright paper for added visibility for medical providers. Filling out the form is always voluntary and subject to revocation by the patient or by the designated medical POA representative.