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Health Care Directives Simplied Through "Polst" Programs

Even though advance health care directives help people to plan ahead and express the medical decisions they want in case they become seriously ill, there are still many New York locals who may not feel the need to have one. According to The Wall Street Journal, only one third of Americans have some type of advance directive prepared, such as a medical power of attorney, or a living will.

In an effort to encourage more people to outline their end-of-life wishes, many states are promoting new programs called Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (Polst), which aims to help direct doctors with a patient's specific health care instructions. A Polst clarifies and simplifies the medical choices a patient wants, such as whether or not to receive antibiotics, and is signed by both doctor and patient.

Sometimes advance health care directives can be too vague to cover a number of medical situations and are hard to understand because of complicated legal language and terms. A recent study from the Annals of Internal Medicine also indicated that legal restrictions on health care proxies and requirements for multiple notarizations and signatures can also be obstacles in preparing an advance directive.

But through the Polst program, health care providers are trained to discuss medical treatment choices with patients who are terminally ill or wish to express their care preferences in broader terms. Susan Toll, a developer of the program, explained that Polst forms are official medical orders that complement, but differ from, an advance directive in that they spell out a patient’s specific treatment instructions and are included as part of his or her medical record.

So far, 14 states and regions have currently adopted the Polst programs, including New York, California, and Pennsylvania, while 16 other states are still developing the program.

For more general information on advance health care directives, visit the Related Resources links below.

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