POLST: The Form That Permits Patients To Make Decisions With Their Physician Regarding Medical Intervention

On February 22, 2013, representatives of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services released a healthcare treatment planning device to more efficiently execute a patient’s treatment goals and desires. The Practitioner Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form was created by legislation that was signed by Governor Chris Christie on December 21, 2011. The form is designed to be completed concurrently by patients and their attending physician or advanced practice nurse. The form permits individuals to make decisions in consultation with their physician regarding medical interventions, such as whether a patient desires to receive certain types of medical interventions, including artificially administered fluids and nutrition, as well as CPR/intubation/artificial ventilation. The creation of the POLST form is specifically recommended for those who are seriously ill, frail and/or who live in a nursing home or hospice, although anyone may complete the form.

A patient who executes a POLST form may modify or revoke the POLST form at any time. The patient may also designate a surrogate decision maker, who may modify or revoke the patient’s previously executed POLST orders in conjunction with the patient’s treating practitioner if the patient loses capacity to make decisions. The POLST form also permits individuals to dictate whether they wish to make an anatomical gift.

Properly executed POLST forms are valid medical orders which become part of a patient’s medical records and may be transferred with the patient. The form follows patients throughout various levels of care, including ambulance transportation and visits to a hospital and nursing home. The form is available at hospitals and nursing homes across the state and it is valid in all treatment facilities in New Jersey. The form is meant to complement and not replace an Advanced Healthcare Directive or Living Will, which requires a designated legal health care decision maker.

Patients and family members often fear that their wishes will not be followed, such as when a patient is brought to an emergency room and hospital personnel are unaware that that the patient has requested a “do not resuscitate” order. The POLST form will go a long way toward allaying those fears.

For answers to any questions contact Michael Salad at msalad@cooperlevenson.com or call 609.572.7616.

Michael is a partner in the firm’s Business and Tax Practice Group. He has an LL.M. in Estate Planning and Elder Law.