When people think about their end of life options, they might want to put their decisions on a hot pink form. The importance of this form, “Physician Orders Life-Sustaining Treatment,” was recently confirmed by a study done in three states, including West Virginia.

An article about the study’s findings will be published this month in the “Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.” The authors concluded that the research suggests that the POLST program has advantages over traditional methods, such as advance directives, to communicate preferences about life-sustaining treatments.

Alvin H. Moss, M.D., director of the Center for Health Ethics and Law of West Virginia University, is a co-author of the article and a National POLST Paradigm Task Force member.

Researchers analyzed the medical records of 1,711 nursing facility patients in Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin. They found that patients with POLST forms were more likely to receive the amount of treatment they wanted than patients without the form.

“These research findings are very gratifying. The goal of the POLST program is to honor treatment preferences of those with serious illnesses or frailties. The research indicates the POLST program is achieving this goal,” Moss said.

The Center for Health Ethics and Law of West Virginia University has distributed more than 200,000 of these forms since 2002.

The POLST form is usually brightly colored so that it won’t be overlooked, and is sent with the patient wherever he or she goes, such as a hospital or nursing home. West Virginia’s system identifies documents and ensures that patients’ treatment wishes are honored. The Center provides downloads of this form, and others, on their Web site. Next year, the system will be improved when POLST forms, advance directives, and Do Not Resuscitate cards become part of the West Virginia Health Information Network.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research. Note: In West Virginia, the POLST form is called Physicians Order for Scope of Treatment. For more information, about West Virginia’s program, see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/chel/wvi/.



CONTACT: Kim Fetty, HSC News Service
304-293-7087; fettyki@wvuh.com

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