• Louisiana Standardizes Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLSTs)
  • May 11, 2011 | Authors: Marguerite L. Adams; James Dunne
  • Law Firm: Liskow & Lewis A Professional Law Corporation - New Orleans Office
  • New form of medical directive offers patients greater control and flexibility

    In light of the increased media attention on end-of-life medical care, a growing number of people are seeking to take control over their own future medical treatment. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlighted a new form of medical care planning known as Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, or POLST. A POLST is designed to go beyond the limited scope of traditional planning devices, such as a Living Will or Do-Not-Resuscitate order, and offers greater flexibility and control to seriously ill individuals.
    The main benefits of a POLST are that it allows an individual, in consultation with his or her physician, to predetermine exactly what types of medical treatment he or she will receive, regardless of his or her future ability to communicate his or her wishes. The POLST must be signed by both the individual and his or her physician. Once executed, it becomes a physician’s order that is placed in the individual’s official medical record.
    Embracing this new trend, last summer the Louisiana legislature passed Act No. 954, which authorizes the use of POLSTs in Louisiana and calls for a standardized form to be issued known as a LaPOST (Louisiana Physician’s Order for Scope of Treatment). Although the form has not yet been finalized, the proposed draft includes a “check-the-box” menu of health care services for an individual to choose from. The included categories of care range from CPR and artificial nutrition by tube to IV fluids and antibiotics. In addition to this increased flexibility, the use of a standardized medical form should also help remove uncertainty for both family members and health care providers when determining the exact wishes of a terminally ill individual.
    The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is currently working on a final version of the official LaPOST form, which should be available in late June of this year.