On Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

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What is the POLST? 

  • POLST is a tool for translating patients’ goals for treatment into medical orders regarding a current progressive illness.

  • POLST is intended for those patients with serious, advanced, progressive illness and/or frailty and not for the general population.

  • POLST is not an advance directive.

  • POLST is not simply a form for a health care professional to complete but rather a part of a larger advance care planning process comprised of conversations between the patient or surrogate and the health care professional.

The question of whether or not the POLST form and paradigm are consistent with Catholic moral teaching depends upon the content of the POLST form used in a particular state. However, it should be noted that the POLST paradigm and form are simply tools that may be used well or poorly, for good or for ill. There is nothing inherent in the paradigm or form in general that is necessarily improper from the point of view of Catholic morality. Rather, it is the way in which they are used that can become beneficial or problematic from the point of view of the Catholic moral tradition. The range of answers in most POLST forms – and the character of the advance care planning given in Catholic health care facilities – allows patients to make choices consistent with Catholic moral teaching.

Read SCC's POLST talking points by clicking below:

Supportive Care Coalition