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California Tests Electronic Database for End-of-Life Wishes

Prompted by a state law that took effect this year, a coalition of emergency and social service providers is working to create an electronic registry for POLST forms so they will be available to first responders and medical providers when they are needed. The group is starting with a three-year pilot project in San Diego and Contra Costa counties that could serve as a model for a single, statewide registry. Paper-based POLST forms are used across the nation, but electronic registries exist only in a few states, including Oregon, New York and West Virginia. Many adults have advance directives, which are legal documents that designate a surrogate decision-maker and list patients’ health care preferences. POLST forms go further, creating a set of medical orders that are signed by the provider and the patient or a legally recognized decision-maker. Unlike advance directives, they are specifically designed for people who are already seriously ill or near the end of life. Research shows that POLST forms help ensure patients’ end-of-life wishes are followed. But that only happens if doctors and other emergency providers can get them quickly. In California, the POLST form is a paper document and might not be at hand when patients need it. In many situations — a heart attack, a stroke or severe dementia — patients may not be able to communicate. And doctors may not be able to reach their families right away. Without information on what patients want, there is an increased chance their wishes won’t be followed.

Source/more: Kaiser Health News



David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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