Friday, December 23, 2011

POLST & the season of giving

Months after his veto with recommendations for new language and bolstered patient rights, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie this week signed POLST legislation.
The POLST is a form meant to follow a patient through the health system with preferences for care. It stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, and gives voice to a patient whose thoughts are no longer accessible. And it seems to me a gift. In imagining an ideal for how to die well, many of us wish not to be a burden to family. The POLST, an advance directive with a broader reach (covering, for example, EMTs), is an effort to respect that wish.
I admire Christie and New Jersey legislators for making POLST state law. No one form can solve the emotional complexities of end-of-life decision-making. But this seems an important step, and a courageous one, given how difficult it is for Americans to discuss dying. 
A similar form known as a MOLST is being promoted for adoption in Massachusetts. At the same time, a separate effort is under way to place assisted suicide on the 2012 ballot in Massachusetts. MOLST proponents are concerned the heat surrounding the assisted suicide measure will compromise support. 
I hope that is not the case. Massachusetts would do well to follow New Jersey’s lead.

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