What is the POLST Form?

The POLST form or Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment is a medical order that gives people with serious illnesses more control over their care during a medical emergency. POLST can help make sure you get the care you want, and prevent you from getting medical treatments you DO NOT want.


What is the Difference Between the POLST & Advance Directive?

The POLST form is not an advance directive, nor is it a replacement for advance directives.  An advance directive is a form in which an individual appoints a person(s) to make health care decisions for the individual if the individual loses the capacity to make care decisions. In addition, an advance directive provides instructions for making health care decisions, usually with end-of-life care. An advance directive is a direction from the patient, not a medical order.


However, the POLST Form consists of a set of medical orders that apply to certain patients and address a limited number of critical medical decisions. This form is designed to serve as a resource that complements advance care directives to ensure continuity of care.


Key Things to Know:

  • POLST is voluntary
  • POLST is for people who are seriously ill or have advanced frailty
  • POLST does not replace an advance directive
  • The POLST form should be completed by your doctor or another trained professional
  • The POLST form is not valid until it is signed by both you (or your designated decision-maker) and your physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
  • Once completed and signed, a copy goes into your medical record and you keep the original bright pink POLST.
  • POLST does not expire, but you should review it regularly to ensure your wishes haven’t changed.
  • POLST is a medical order, which means licensed medical providers are required to follow its instructions.
  • You can void your POLST form at anytime, verbally or in writing.



Watch as our VP of Outreach, Patty Barnett Mouton, discusses how the POLST form is different from other medical forms, how to use it appropriately, and how conversations about POLST can help with making informed choices and identifying treatment goals.


For more information contact our Helpline: 844-373-4400

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Coalition for Compassionate Care of California