POLST and Living Wills
In 2009, the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form became a recognized compliment to a living will or advance care directive. While living wills and advanced care directives are designed to give guidance on your behalf, the POLST is a document intended for physicians to follow if you have a terminal illness or a prognosis of less than one year.
The POLST form is a standard form easily recognized by the variety of caregivers you might encounter during your medical treatments. Because physicians can treat terminal illnesses, such as cancer, with so many methods, the POLST prevents you from making frequent decisions about your wishes. The POLST also prevents you from enduring the same difficult conversation by allowing one or more doctors to make pre-approved treatment decisions for you.
Generally, you will not include a valid, completed POLST form when you and your lawyer are creating a health care directive and estate plan. However, the health care decision-maker named in your living will must sign your POLST to make it valid. When you share your end of life decisions with your health care decision-maker, you can also introduce him or her to the POLST form.
While the POLST will have to be newly-completed if you start treatment for a terminal illness, having previously drafted a copy of the form will make the decision making process easier for you and your family.