A Provider Order regarding Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) says what measures should be used to keep you alive in a medical emergency. It is different from an Advance Directive in that it will be followed by emergency personnel, provided that they are aware of its existence. If you don’t have a POLST, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are required to do whatever they can to restore and stabilize your heartbeat and breathing and take you to an appropriate facility for treatment. They will not read your Advance Directive and try to figure out how it might apply to your situation.
In some cases, resuscitation is not appropriate or wanted. A POLST, being a medical provider’s order, will be followed by the EMTs. Your Advance Directive will not come into play until you are in the hospital. At that point, the EMTs may not have done you any favors by keeping you alive. If you would not want to be resuscitated, talk with your doctor about having a POLST. If you would want the EMTs to follow normal lifesaving procedures, you do not need a POLST.
Your POLST should be printed on lime green paper so it is immediately recognizable. Post a copy by your bed and carry one with you when you leave home. Make sure loved ones know where to find it in an emergency.