Florida Lawmaker Wants To Improve End Of Life Healthcare
In January 2017, Senator Jeff Brandes filed a new bill, SB 228, that would create a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) program in the Florida Department of Health.
Senator Brandes’s experience with his own family, his grandparents, spearheaded his recent initiative to introduce the bill that would create a POLST program in Florida. “If we had had the conversations earlier I think my grandparents would’ve made some different choices than maybe our family made at that time,” Florida Senator Jeff Brandes admitted.
What is POLST?
According to polst.org, the POLST paradigm was developed to improve the quality of patient care by creating a system that identifies patients’ wishes regarding medical treatment and communicates and respects them by creating portable medical orders. While the POLST Paradigm supports the completion of advance directives, clinical experience and research demonstrate that these advance directives are not sufficient alone to assure that those who suffer from serious illnesses or frailty will have their preferences for treatment honored unless a POLST Form is also completed.
About the Bill
Brandes’ bill establishes a list of regulations to determine the way POLSTs should be used and regulated. Under his bill, the new department created would adopt rules for POLSTs, create a standardized form for one, provide an electronic version online, make sure staff receives updated training on dealing with the forms and implement a statewide process for identifying patients who have the forms and dealing with them properly.
The bill provides that POLST forms may not be treated as prerequisites for receiving treatment at medical care facilities. The new rules would make clear that an absence of a POLST form doesn’t mean medical professionals can withhold resuscitation or care.
Why POLST Is Important
The statistics indicate that most Americans aren’t getting the kind of end of life care they want. The data tells us between 70 – 80 percent of people want to die at home. But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 25 percent of Americans actually do. Even for the estimated 20 – 30 percent of people who do have an advanced directive detailing their wishes, it doesn’t always happen.
According to Marshall Kapp who heads up a collaboration between the schools of Medicine and Law at Florida State University, “The problem is in actual practice, when an emergency arises and the patient can’t speak for himself anymore, or herself anymore, that living will either isn’t available, or it just doesn’t get followed, or it’s in terms that are too general to be applied to the specific situation.”