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Statement: POLST legislation would ensure care is consistent with patients end-of-life preferences

Today, the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) stood with Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23) and Rep. Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom) to promote an upcoming bill which would codify the "Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)."  POLST helps patients with more advanced illness or frailty express their health care wishes, either personally or through a surrogate decision maker, for issues likely to emerge given the patient's current medical condition.  The following is a statement on POLST from Charles Cutler, MD, president of PAMED and a practicing physician in Montgomery County.

Many of us want peace of mind during our final days on this earth. Not only is it good for patients, but also for families caring for loved ones who are near the end of life.  Unfortunately, without the appropriate conversation between the patient and health care practitioner about treatment options and the use of a standardized POLST form, end-of-life treatment wishes can be unclear and possibly not followed; thus, creating difficult situations for everyone involved.

In Pennsylvania, efforts are underway to help ensure that the health care wishes of patients nearing the end of their lives are honored through the development and codification of "Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)."

POLST is voluntary and differs from advance health care directives in it makes clear an individual's wishes regarding treatment measures via a POLST form, which includes one or more medical orders that are applicable across all health care settings—thereby applicable in emergency medical services, health care facilities, and home care and hospice settings.

POLST is appropriate for individuals with serious illnesses or frailty when their health care practitioner would not be surprised if they died within the next year. POLST is not recommended for healthy individuals or individuals with stable, even if chronic, medical conditions and years of life expectancy.

The efforts on this issue at the state capitol should be noted. A broad coalition of stakeholders including PAMED were involved in drafting POLST legislation. The coalition met and addressed a wide variety of issues that were of concern to each stakeholder group. Sen. Gene Yaw and Rep. Bryan Cutler should applauded for their willingness to take on this issue on behalf of the broader stakeholder group.

PAMED supports this upcoming legislation, and encourages our legislature to take the appropriate action to ensure terminally ill patients receive care that is appropriate and consistent with their wishes.

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The Pennsylvania Medical Society was founded in 1848. To learn more about PAMED, visit its web site at or follow on Twitter @PAMEDSociety. Members of the media are encouraged to follow Chuck Moran on Twitter @ChuckMoran7. Dr. Cutler can be followed on Twitter via @PAMEDPrez.

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