The POLST form is a brightly colored, one-page form physicians can use to translate patient wishes into specific written medical orders. Physicians may use the POLST to write orders that reflect the types of life-sustaining treatment–such as CPR or tube-feeding, or focus on comfort–that patients do or do not want and that are appropriate for an individual’s medical situation. It is not an advance directive, but rather a means to translate advance directive decisions into physician orders that all medical personnel follow. Currently, only about half of all states have POLST forms available. Make sure to check with your physician about whether or not your state uses a version of POLST.

Also, POLST is not for everyone. Only patients with serious illness or frailty, for whom a health care professional would not be surprised if the patient died within one year, should have a POLST form. The current health status of these patients indicates the need for standing medical orders. For healthy patients, an advance directive is a more appropriate tool for making future end-of-life care known to loved ones. Download information about POLST here.