HARRISBURG – Legislation codifying use of a standardized Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form for individuals suffering from a serious illness or toward the end of life was unanimously approved today by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, according to the bill’s prime sponsor state Senator Gene Yaw (R-23).
Senate Bill 623 allows POLST forms to be used by medical professionals across all health care settings for patients who voluntarily wish to execute a POLST order. The bill updates Chapter 54 of Title 20 to include the recognition of POLST orders. The majority of the legislation will create a new subchapter as the Pennsylvania Order for Life Sustaining Treatment Act. The new subchapter will make clear that POLST forms are not to be used to advance or support euthanasia, suicide or health care practitioner-assisted suicide.
“Use of a POLST form gives seriously ill patients more control over their treatment and also helps them talk with their doctors and family members about their end-of-life choices,” Sen. Yaw said. “POLST can help ensure patient wishes are known and honored.”
The legislation prohibits insurers from certain actions regarding POLST orders, including requiring an individual to consent to a POLST order or to have a POLST order as a condition for being insured, prohibits insurers from charging an individual a different rate whether the individual consents to a POLST order or has a POLST order, and prohibits an insurer from requiring a health care provider to have a policy to offer a POLST order to any individual.
The bill also prohibits health care providers from adopting policies that require individuals to have a POLST order as a condition for treatment or admission to a facility.
Yaw added that POLST orders are different from advance directives in that POLST orders convert an individual’s wishes regarding health care into a medical order that is immediately actionable and applicable across all health care settings. Advance directives often only name a surrogate decision-maker to make health care decisions for the individual or often lack specificity as to the individual’s goals and preferences for a medical condition that subsequently develops because it was not foreseen by the individual.
“The health and well-being of our patients has always been, and will forever remain, our number one priority,” said Theodore Christopher, MD, President, Pennsylvania Medical Society. “The care and comfort of our patients is a responsibility we take very seriously. That’s why the Pennsylvania Medical Society is pleased to learn that SB 623 – POLST legislation that would allow patients to freely direct and control their end-of-life care – successfully moved out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.”
“We thank Senator Yaw for his dedication to this issue and the committee members who chose to put patients first by moving POLST one step closer to becoming law,” Dr. Christopher added.
Senate Bill 623 now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff