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Understanding Illinois POLST Forms

Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (“POLST”) were first developed in Oregon to complement a patient’s advance directives and/or do not resuscitate orders (“DNR”) and better adhere to the patient’s preferred amount of treatment in emergency end-of-life situations. Essentially, a POLST is a form at the top of a patient’s medical chart, or carried with the patient if he or she is an outpatient, which serves as a medical order to any healthcare professional about treatments the patient should or should not receive in an emergency.

Unlike an advance directive, a POLST form is an actual physician’s (or other recognized practitioner) order that medical personnel are required to follow. Unlike a DNR, POLST forms are tailored to a patient’s current medical condition and provide for the patient’s wishes with respect to a variety of treatments likely to be administered to a similar patient in an emergency, such as the administration of CPR, IVs, antibiotics, and/or intubation.

POLST programs were developed (and are continuing to be developed) to serve patients with grave illness and a limited prognosis, typically in the last year of life. Patients consult with their physician, discuss their prognosis and typical treatments administered to similar patients, and decide what they would and would not like to receive. After this discussion, the practitioner documents the patient’s directives on a POLST form signed by the patient or legal representative, the practitioner, and a witness.

The existence of a POLST form cannot guarantee that emergency personnel will be aware of it; at some point emergency responders, unaware of a POLST, may provide unwanted treatment to their patient.

While POLST forms have the power to provide substantial end of life benefits to patients, like advance directives, they will only be effective to the extent patients and health care professionals utilize them properly. Proper end of life planning requires communication between the patient, his or her healthcare professionals, and all of the patient’s loved ones. Without such communication, legal battles may revolve around the proper care for their loved one.

Chicago elder law lawyers recommend that their clients prepare powers of attorney documents along with their will in order to help ensure their future healthcare and financial wishes are met. To learn more about powers of attorney or how a Chicago elder law lawyer can assist you and your family with an estate plan, contact Peck Ritchey, LLC, at (855) 328-5787.