Reflections on the Graying of America: Implications of Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment

Beverly Petersen Jennison, The Catholic Univerity of America, Columbus School of Law


This article examines historical developments in advance directives, including their benefits and their problems, and discusses in detail the newest form of advance directive, known as the POLST form, or Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Against the backdrop of the author’s personal experience with advance directives, this article examines whether or not the newest “kid on the block” improves our desire as a society to move towards more patient self-determination in endof- life healthcare decisions, or whether it simply provides a clearer, less personal vehicle by which medical professionals can further avoid difficult discussions with patients and their surrogates when the end of life is near. This article concludes that although POLST forms may make treatment decisions easier for healthcare providers, there may be a disconnect between our laws approving such documentation and the reality of a patient’s or patient’s surrogate’s own wishes at end-of-life.