In the New Jersey Advance Directives for Health Care Act, N.J.S.A. 26:2H-53 et seq., the State of New Jersey recognized that a competent adult has a statutory right to plan ahead for health care decisions through the execution of advance medical directives, and to have the wishes expressed in those documents respected. A more recent law, the “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act,” codified at N.J.S.A. 26:2H-129 et seq., complements an advance medical directive by converting a person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment, such as those set forth in an advance medical directive, into a medical order.

A completed physician’s order for life-sustaining treatment made in accordance with the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act (“POLST”) is signed by the patient’s attending physician or advanced practice nurse, and provides a specific and detailed set of instructions for a health care professional or health care institution to follow in regard to the patient’s preference for the use of various medical interventions. The experience in other states has shown that the use of the POLST medical order helps insure that patients’ health care preferences are honored by health care providers.

POLST orders are actual doctor’s orders that transfer with the patient and are valid in all health care settings in New Jersey. It is recommended that POLST orders be reviewed periodically, especially when: a) The patient is transferred from one care setting or care level to another; b) There is a substantial change in the patient’s health status; or c) The patient’s treatment preferences change.

The use of POLST medical orders can overcome many of the problems associated with advance directives, which are often locked away in file drawers or safe deposit boxes and unavailable to health care providers when the need arises to ensure that the patient’s wishes are followed.

The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act is annexed here – Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act

A “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment form” or “POLST form,” a standardized printed document that meets the requirements set forth in the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Act, is annexed here – New Jersey Practitioner Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)

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