On December 21, 2011, the state of New Jersey, under the authority of then-governor Chris Christie, created the standardized Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. The state of New Jersey recognized the importance of advanced directives (living wills, in particular) and decided to create a statewide form for individuals to set limitations on life-sustaining treatment in case of incapacitation.
According to the New Jersey Hospital Association Institute for Quality and Patient Safety, the POLST form was created to complement an advanced directive. While similar to a living will, it is not meant to replace it. A living will declares what medical treatment you would accept if you are unable to make decisions regarding medical care. Living wills and subsequently, POLST forms, address a variety of aspects, including:
- Tube feeding;
- Airway ventilation; and
- Other medical interventions
However, living wills and POLST forms differ slightly. Living wills are not considered to be medically binding, as they are mere guidelines for physicians to follow. Living wills can be created at any time. Conversely, POLST forms are typically reserved for the end of a person’s life. According to the New Jersey Hospital Association Institute for Quality and Patient Safety, patients should consider creating a POLST form if the patient is:
- Faced with a life-altering and life-limiting illness;
- Having trouble performing daily activities due to severe frailness or weakness;
- Afraid of losing the capacity to make informed decisions regarding his or her medical care in the near future; or
- Living in a nursing home or hospice.
After the discussion and drafting of the POLST form, it is signed by the patient or the patient’s guardian/health care proxy, and the attending physician or advanced practice nurse.
Discussing the option of a POLST form with your family and physician can be difficult. If you have any questions pertaining to the POLST law, it is best to contact an experienced attorney who can advise you. Contact the attorneys at Hunziker, Jones & Sweeney by calling (973) 256-0456 or fill out our contact form for a consultation.