POLST and Advance Directives

What is the Difference between a POLST form and an Advance Directive (AD)?
The POLST form complements Advance Directives and is not intended to replace any type of AD. Advance Directives (Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will or Declaration) are legal documents and are necessary in order to appoint a legal health care representative and provide limited instructions for future life-sustaining treatments, respectively. These Advance Directives are recommended for all adults, regardless of their health status. Furthermore, the wishes expressed in Advance Directives are not used by emergency medical services (EMS / ambulance) personnel. Should you direct that you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in your Advance Directive, but call an ambulance or 911 when someone’s heart has stopped beating, EMS by law is nevertheless required to attempt CPR.

The POLST is for those with serious illness or frailty. The POLST is also a legal document, but expresses your wishes as medical orders so that health care providers can readily apply them to your treatment. Furthermore, emergency medical services will honor POLST directives and will not perform CPR if directed by your POLST form. The POLST form also summarizes your organ donation status, (as noted on your Nevada driver’s license or State issued ID) and who to contact should you be unable to express yourself (your Agent as stated in your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care). If you complete a POLST, be sure to ask your health care provider to include the information from your other ADs on the POLST form.

The POLST should remain with you wherever you receive treatment. If you are at home, the POLST should be next to your bed or on your refrigerator, both locations that emergency medical service personnel are trained to look for it. The POLST form should be bright pink. If your form is white or another color, ask your health care provider if it is possible to have a pink one to assure ready recognition by other providers.

If you have completed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, Living Will or Declaration be sure your physician has a copy. If you have not yet completed these important documents you may do so online at NVLivingWill.com. Or, you may want to consider another format for end-of-life decision making, Five Wishes.