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Program Helps Patients Communicate Their End-of-Life Wishes

OPB | June 11, 2014 12:45 p.m. | Updated: June 11, 2014 2:20 p.m.

Michigan Health Dept.

A recent study published by the Journal of American Geriatrics Society shows that patients’ end-of-life wishes in Oregon are being granted. The study reviewed death certificates for 58,000 people who died from natural causes in Oregon in 2010 and 2011. Of that group, 18,000 filled out a form for the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program, which helps patients design a plan for their end-of-life care.

POLST originated in Oregon in 1991 and has since been implemented in many other states. The program seeks to ensure that patients’ end-of-life wishes are granted and that proper treatment is provided. The study found a strong connection between the type of care patients desired and the location at which they died. Only 6.4 percent of patients who opted for limited medical care died at the hospital.

We’ll discuss the POLST program with Susan Tolle, a physician and the director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU.

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