The POLST Paradigm began in Oregon in 1991. Medical ethics leaders recognized that patient wishes for life-sustaining treatments were not being honored consistently despite the availability of advance directives. The Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University convened representatives from stakeholder health care organizations to develop the Medical Treatment Coversheet; portable medical orders based on a patient’s values for life-sustaining treatments.
After initial evaluation and a name change to “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment” (POLST) the form was released for use in Oregon in 1995. Using a “train-the-trainer” model, members of the task force initially educated health care professionals about use of the form. Ongoing education, research and a statewide experience-based continuous quality improvement process helped the task force improve the content of the POLST Form and the process of implementation.
As Oregon’s program evolved, selected regulations rather than legislation were used to help with implementation. Other programs like West Virginia and New York sought legislation to facilitate POLST Paradigm adoption. Each new program found that their approach needed to be thoughtfully tailored to state laws and regulations.
Oregon POLST Program Leadership Team
Susan Tolle, M.D., Chair, Oregon POLST Task Force
Susan Tolle is the Director of the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care and a practicing internal medicine physician. She is a founding member of the Oregon POLST Task Force and Chairs the Research Committee for the National POLST Paradigm.
Faith English, Oregon POLST Program Coordinator
Faith English oversees coordination of the Oregon POLST Program, including providing education and administrative support to health care professionals across the state. Faith serves as Secretary on both the Oregon POLST Task Force and the Research Committee for the National POLST Paradigm.