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Closure.org Blog

Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

By Marian Kemp

Talking about care at the end of life is not easy. Yet communicating wishes for care in the final months is important. It helps to ensure wishes are honored and eases the burden on loved ones.

Seriously ill patients and/or their families may hear of a document that can help ensure that an individual's health care treatment wishes at the end of life are respected. This document, called the Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment or POLST, was approved for use in Pennsylvania late in 2010 by the Secretary of the Department of Health (DOH).

The POLST form is recommended for persons who have advanced chronic progressive illness and/or frailty, those who might die in the next year, or anyone of advanced age with a strong desire to further define their preferences of care in their present state of health. To determine whether a POLST form should be encouraged, healthcare professionals ask themselves, "Would I be surprised if this person died in the next year?" If the answer is "No, I would not be surprised", then a POLST form is appropriate.

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