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Home > Columnists > Alice Park
December 22, 2011

Gov. Christie Signs Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment Registry into Law

     News editor

Governor Chris Christie signed into legislation the Physicians Orders for Life-sustaining Treatment (POLST) Act yesterday. Sponsored by GOP Assemblywoman Nancy F. Munoz (Essex), the bill was received with bipartisan support and approved by both legislative houses last Thursday. New Jersey is the first state in the United States to have a single statute that merges requirements for living wills and healthcare proxies.

POLST is endorsed by the National Quality Forum (NQF), which states on its website that it is “a voluntary consensus standards setting body as specified by the National Technology and Transfer Advancement act of 1995.” NQF endorsed the New Jersey act because the POLST “more accurately conveys end-of-life preferences and yields higher adherence by medical professionals.” Used by persons suffering from serious medical conditions or terminal illness, POLST allows healthcare providers to see detailed indications of a patient’s specific medical orders concerning life-sustaining treatment. POLST does not override an advance directive. It simply acts as an extension of a patient’s wishes.

“In medicine, the first priority is always the patient. The POLST program recognizes that a patient’s emotional welfare is just as important as their physical well-being,” said Munoz in a release concerning the legislation. “Establishing a central database where physicians, hospitals or managed care facilities can be notified of a patient’s preference for care is an effective way to ensure continuity in their treatment.” Further, the act requires physicians and advanced practice nurses to receive on-going education and training in end-of-life care.

The use of a POLST form would be entirely voluntary by the patient. Those who choose to utilize a POLST form can adjust or repeal their decision at any time, but must receive the signature of their attending physician. 

As a registered nurse and clinical nurse specialist, Munoz found it necessary to strengthen advance care planning solutions, due to the increasing longevity of New Jersey residents, along “with its concomitant experience of chronic disease.”

Munoz commented, “The POLST registry will help ensure that a person’s medical treatment wishes are honored. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect regarding their medical care, especially as they enter the final phase of their lives.” The POLST program will be administered and supervised by the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.

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