Sometimes the best decision by a legislature is not to pass a bill. Among the bills that did not pass the Florida Legislature in 2017 was Senate Bill 228, which would have made POLST a law in Florida. It died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. About twenty states have enacted POLST legislation.
POLST stands for Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. The proposed Florida legislation provided that such an order is one signed by a patient who is either in an end stage condition or is suffering from a medical condition that will likely result in the death of the patient within one (1) year after execution of the form. The form provides directives for the patient’s medical treatment and care. If the patient is unable to understand the paper being placed in front of him, the legislation provided that a POLST form could be signed by the patient’s legal representative.
A POLST form is similar to a living will. Living wills typically are prepared in the context of estate planning when clients are in good health and have a clear state of mind. A concern with the POLST form is that it typically would be signed when the client is neither healthy nor in a clear state of mind. The proposed legislation provided that the POLST form would take precedence over any prior living will with conflicting provisions.
In my admittedly biased opinion, advice about preparing and signing legal forms is better given by lawyers than by physicians. A living will or advance medical directive is better designed in the context of meetings with an estate planning attorney, when the client is proactive and clear headed. Just because physicians and hospitals prefer “their” forms is no reason to enact a law which has the very real potential of overriding a carefully crafted estate plan. We are happy to report that the POLST bill died in committee.
Anyone wish to share other thoughts or opinions on this subject?