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Key Talking Points for POLST Illinois

  1. POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. A POLST form is a signed medical order for documenting the life-sustaining treatment wishes of seriously ill patients. It travels with the patient to assure that treatment preferences are honored across settings of care. 
  2. POLST is designed to honor the freedom of persons with advanced illness or frailty to have or to limit treatment across settings of care. POLST allows patients to choose all possible life-sustaining treatment, limited life-sustaining interventions, or comfort care only. Comfort measures are always provided no matter what other choices patients make. 
  3. POLST is intended for persons of any age for whom death within the next year would not be unexpected. This includes patients with advanced illness or frailty. POLST is not intended for persons with chronic, stable disability. Such individuals should not be mistaken for having an end-of-life determining illness. POLST would only be appropriate for such persons if their health deteriorates such that death within a year would not be unexpected. 
  4. Having a POLST is completely voluntary. POLST orders can be revoked or changed by patients at any time.
  5. In Illinois*, the POLST form is a revised version of the IDPH Uniform DNR Advance Directive. 
  6. POLST forms are completed after patients discuss their preferences with health care professionals who can explain to them what may happen if different treatments are tried. The POLST form itself serves as a guide for these discussions related to each person’s unique medical condition and goals.
  7. POLST forms are signed by the patient or patient representative, an attending physician and a witness. The completed POLST form is an actionable medical order.
  8. Health care providers and professionals are required by law to honor treatment choices shown on a POLST. Because the form travels with the patient, it provides an immediate guide for first responders and emergency department staff about whether to even begin life-supporting care. 
  9. Without a POLST or IDPH Uniform DNR Advance Directive, emergency medical personnel are required to do everything they can to attempt to save a person’s life.
  10. When a patient’s condition changes significantly, earlier decisions about treatment should be revisited and a new, updated POLST completed.
  11. The POLST Illinois Task Force is a volunteer coalition of doctors, nurses, clergy, social workers, attorneys, paramedics, and administrators from hospitals, emergency medical systems, hospices, and long term care facilities. The Task Force supports every person in exercising his or her right to accept or decline medical treatment. For more information, go to: www.polst.org or www.cecc.info.