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Senator Yaw and Representative Cutler Introducing Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Legislation

April 18, 2017

HAP President and CEO Andy Carter today joined providers, advocates, and lawmakers from across the commonwealth to praise the pending introduction of legislation to codify Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) as an option for patients and their families.

The legislation, which HAP supports, will be introduced in the Senate as SB 623, sponsored by Senator Gene Yaw, and in the House as HB 1196, sponsored by Representative Bryan Cutler.

The POLST process offers patients the option to dictate their wishes about a variety of life-sustaining matters, including:

  • Medical interventions (such as resuscitation, feeding methods, and administration of medication)
  • Transportation methods
  • Other treatments or procedures

The legislation enables POLST to be recognized across the continuum of care, from pre-hospital emergency services to post-discharge care in nursing homes or through hospice and home health care.

Senator Yaw stated, “the legislation will help Pennsylvanians put their preferences into medical orders,” and will “open the discussion of choices about treatment between patients, family, and physicians.

Representative Cutler noted that “end-of-life care often is colored by personal experience,” and “that POLST compliments use of advance directives or living wills and will help start meaningful discussions in families and with caregivers.”

HAP has worked closely with the Pennsylvania Medical Society, other health care provider organizations, faith-based groups, consumer advocates, the Aging Institute at UPMC Senior Services and the University of Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and members of the General Assembly to craft and support this legislation. 

Dr. Alexander Nesbit, who practices palliative care at UPMC Susquehanna in Williamsport, also spoke on behalf of the medical community. “Figuring out what is right for each patient can be hard and POLST is a tool that helps us, as practitioners, do a better job in getting it right regarding patient care preferences at the end of life.”

Carter added, “HAP is dedicated to helping Pennsylvanians become their own health care advocates. POLST education and use of the POLST form helps patients take charge of their care decisions, giving them a tool to make their wishes known.”

HAP applauds Senator Yaw and Representative Cutler in recognizing the need to provide patients and families with consistent resources to assist them in making often-difficult health care decisions that could result from advanced illness. The legislation provides authority to the Pennsylvania Department of Health to maintain and update the form and to provide educational materials for use by health care providers.

Carter added, “The standardized form, pink in color, is easy to understand and works hand-in-hand with advanced directives. This is just another example of a coalition of health care champions working together to help patients receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”

Both bills await consideration by their respective standing committees in the House and Senate.

For more information about the POLST legislation, contact Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy, or Paula Bussard, HAP’s chief strategy officer.

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