What Is a POLST Form?by Shae Irving
A POLST form is a document that tells health care professionals what kind of medical treatments you do or do not wish to receive at the end of your life. POLST is short for “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment,” though the document may go by a different name in your state.
How POLST Forms Work
A POLST form is a medical order that a doctor or other approved health care professional may make for you if you are:
- nearing the end of your life, and
- admitted to a hospital or enter another health care setting, such as hospice.
The POLST form gives directions to medical providers about life-sustaining treatments, such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), intubation, and feeding tubes. If you move from one health care setting to another, you POLST form will travel with you.
To be valid, health care provider who helps you make the POLST must sign the form and place it in your medical records. It will be printed on brightly colored paper so it can’t easily be overlooked.
Why You Still Need a Living Will
Even though a POLST form addresses many of the same issues covered by a DNR order and a living will, it is not a complete substitute for a properly prepared set of advance directives.
You cannot, for example, use a POLST form to name a health care agent to carry out your health care wishes. For that, you need a durable power of attorney for health care. Nor can you make a POLST form in advance -- while you are healthy -- to specify your treatment wishes for the future. To do that, you need a living will.
How to Get a POLST Form
POLSTs are not yet available in all states. Where they are used, they may go by another name, such as POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment), MOLST (Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment), or COLST (Clinician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment).
If State offers a POLST or similar form, you can find out what it is called and learn more about it by clicking the link below. If State is not on this list, see the end of this article for more information.
What to Do If Your State Doesn’t Offer a POLST Form
If your state isn't listed above, you should make advance directives to ensure your health care wishes are known and followed at the end of your life. Taken together, a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, and DNR order cover all the issues in a POLST form, and more.
For more information about making advance directives, see What Pennsylvania Residents Need to Know About Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney.
To learn about DNR Orders, see How Do I Get a DNR Order in State?