Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

POLST stands for “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment.” Next to an advance health care directive (AHCD), a POLST is one of the most important documents you can have.

The POLST was developed in response to concerns that physicians were not honoring patients’ AHCDs. An AHCD expresses the patient’s wishes for end-of-life care; the POLST is a doctor’s order concerning end-of-life care.

The POLST is typically printed on ultra pink paper, although any color paper will do. The POLST program was first developed in Oregon, and California is one of a handful of other states that have adopted the paradigm. In California, the Coalition for Compassionate Care has taken the lead on educating the public; copies of the POLST are available on its website.

Studies have consistently shown that patients with POLST forms are more likely to have their wishes concerning end-of-life care honored than patients using traditional methods of conveying those wishes (e.g., AHCDs).

Patients and clients are becoming increasingly aware that traditional healthcare at the end of life is often invasive, expensive, and can result in unnecessary pain and suffering. Sometimes even a patient’s express wishes, written on paper aren’t enough. Sometimes the only way to save a client from the perils of western medicine is to find a doctor willing to issue the right prescription.


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