What is a POLST and do I need one?

In estate planning, the decisions we make about our health care directives in the event of illness or injury protect our wishes even if we are unable to communicate them. In most cases, an individual will appoint someone, a loved friend or family member, to ensure that these wishes are carried out to your specifications if you are unable to act on your own.

Recently in the state of California, a new option for health care directives has been surfacing: POLST.

With its origins in Oregon, POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. The form was authorized in California in 2009. It is a prepared document signed by an individual and a health care professional (such as a doctor, nurse, or social worker) that dictates the types of medical treatment an individual wishes to receive at the end of their life. Printed on bright pink paper (simply to distinguish the POLST document from other records, any color of paper will be honored by medical professionals), POLST is included in an individual’s medical records, and one may also keep a copy at home in the event of emergency.

POLST includes directives such as the decision to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the decision to receive antibiotics, IV fluids or artificial nutrition, as well as the choice to use a ventilator to help with breathing. In the event of an emergency situation, health care professionals are trained to do everything in their power to keep a patient alive and healthy. In some situations, the type of care administered may not be what the patient wants, but if the patient is unable to communicate, health care professionals do their best to sustain life. POLST can alert a health care professional of a patient’s wishes even if the patient is unable to do so themselves.

POLST was originally designed for seriously ill patients wishing to have more control over their end of life care, regardless of an individual’s age. It is NOT a replacement for the Advance Health Care Directive and does not intend to be.

For example, POLST does not designate a legal health care decisionmaker, whereas an Advance Health Care Directive does. The POLST is meant to supplement the Health Care Directive in order to provide the care that an individual has truly planned for. If an individual has both a POLST and an Advance Health Care Directive in place, the most current document will be honored. To be certain that you receive the type of care you want, you must ensure the two documents do not have conflicting directions.

Most of the time, we do not prepare for the unthinkable–because it is just that: unthinkable. When the unimaginable occurs, to protect your own wishes and the futures of your loved ones, you must already be prepared. This takes careful planning, but it is manageable and even enjoyable with the right help. With the Law offices of Jill Gregory, we work to ensure your needs, and the needs of your family, are protected.

This article is a service of Jill Gregory, Attorney and Counselor at Law, who develops trusting relationships with families for life. If you’re ready to begin planning what you’d like to happen in case of unfortunate emergency, or even your death, schedule your Planning Session today. We can help you make plans for how you want to provide for your loved ones when you can’t be there.

Please contact us if you are concerned that your POLST contradicts your Advance Health Care Directive.

By Kelly Christensen, a member of Jill Gregory PC’s team.


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The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.