Wisconsin Catholic Bishops warn against POLST

July 26, 2012

Pro-Life Wisconsin commends Wisconsin Catholic Bishops for warning against use of Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

Madison, WI – Yesterday the Wisconsin Catholic Bishops released a pastoral statement on Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). Entitled “Upholding the Dignity of Human Life,” the statement warns against the use of POLST forms in medical decision making. A POLST form does not require a patient’s signature and, according to the bishops, “bears the real risk that an indication may be made on it to withhold a treatment that, in particular circumstances, might be an act of euthanasia.”

Pro-Life Wisconsin State Director Peggy Hamill offered the following comments:

“Pro-Life Wisconsin thanks the Wisconsin Catholic Bishops for their critical statement warning against the use of Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). It will be a tremendous help to Pro-Life Wisconsin in our ongoing efforts to expose and limit the use of POLST here in Wisconsin, beginning with Christian medical providers.

Brightly colored POLST forms are being presented to patients in Wisconsin and across the country who are viewed by caregivers as not worthy of life-sustaining care. In other words, care, even minimal care, is viewed as futile or too costly. When attached to a medical chart, POLST can act to limit the use of life-saving treatment, technology, and even antibiotics and ordinary care such as food and hydration. POLST forms are presented to vulnerable patients often at a time when the patient's appointed advocate should be the one making medical decisions. Once the form is filled out and signed by a doctor or physician’s assistant, its effect is immediate and can override a patient's own advance directive and judgments of the patient’s medical team on the scene.

For well over a year Pro-Life Wisconsin has worked with local lawyers, medical personnel, clergy and patient advocates to educate on and advocate against the increasing use of POLST and similar documents in our nursing homes and hospitals. We concur with the bishops’ recommendation to use a durable power of attorney for healthcare and avoid the use of living wills. Pro-Life Wisconsin provides free of charge our own Protective Power of Attorney for Healthcare(PPAHC) document. Click here to download the PPAHC and to access more information on POLST.”