Medical Treatments

What is the POLST Form?

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No this has nothing to do with poltergeist, and need not be scary at all. In fact it’s really far more scary to think of what can happen if you don’t have a POLST form completed when you need one.

Most doctors in Washington know about the POLST form. It’s the lime green form that I’m told by some of my older patients that the paramedics told them to have taped to their refrigerator door so they would be sure not to miss it if they are called to the home. POLST is another medical acronym that stands for Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment. In the common lingo it’s a place to put your Do Not Resuscitate order if you wish, and to detail specific wishes.

In Washington the POLST form has become very well accepted by paramedics, ER physicians and others as the gold standard document to have to show your immediate preferences in case of cardiac arrest or other acute live threatening catastrophe. I was somewhat surprised to learn that all states don’t have a uniformly accepted POLST form. Actually only 8 states have fully endorsed POLST forms developed, while about half of the rest of the states have developing programs, and about half of the states have no program at all.

Having a POLST form completed and available is a good first step to making your wishes known in case of an anticipated or unforeseen sudden death event, but more important is to have two other documents. Ask your physician to have you fill out a POLST form at your next visit and have him sign the form after you complete it with your preferences.

Everyone should have a durable medical power of attorney form completed, and have discussed their wishes with the person they choose to have their medical DPA. This is simple and easy, and there are free and easy on-line resources to accomplish this. Even better is to go to a local hospital and ask for a form that has been reviewed by legal counsel in your state.

Everyone should also have an advance directive completed. The POSLT form is an acceptable advance directive for most people, although some may want a more detailed document to give to, or make available to the person whom they designate as their medical DPA.