What is a POLST?

A POLST is a document, signed by a physician, which states your wishes regarding to life sustaining medical treatment. Since it is signed by a physician, it becomes a “doctor’s order” which will be honored by emergency responders (EMT’s). In essence, a POLST summarizes an Advance Directive, and makes it into a one-page Doctor’s Order.

Life sustaining medical treatment is anything mechanical or artificial that sustains, restores, or substitutes for a vital body function and would prolong the dying process for a terminally ill patient.

Life –sustaining medical treatment may include the following:

• Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
• Artificial respiration (mouth-to-mouth breathing, manual ventilation, or a ventilator or respirator- a machine that pushes air into your lungs.
• Medicines to help with blood pressure and heart function
• Artificial nutrition or hydration (feeding or fluids given through a tube to the stomach or into a vein)
• Dialysis (a process that does the job the kidneys normally do)
• Certain surgical procedures ( such as amputation, feeding tube placement, tumor removal, or organ transplant)

Nutrition and hydration (food and water) are not usually defined as life-sustaining unless they are given through a feeding tube or IV line. Comfort measures, which are medicines or procedures needed to provide comfort or ease pain, are not usually considered life-sustaining. POLST is not recommended for everyone: it’s only meant for those near the end of life or who are in the advanced stages of an illness.

Where can I obtain POLST?

The form can be downloaded at www.dph.ga.gov/POLST. The POLST form must be signed by a doctor, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. The form is usually bright pink for visibility and contains boxes the patient can check off for various treatments. The POLST covers a range of treatments, from CPR to comfort care, making it comprehensive and clear. The original form stays with the patient; copies are kept by the medical professional.

Why would I need a POLST?

In the past, first responders struggled to decipher various end-of-life forms to determine what the patient wanted. With the POLST, they know and quickly!

For more information visit: polst.org