Researchers advocate changing POLST term to more accurately describe end-of-life wishes

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Updating the name of forms used to document nursing home residents' end-of-life wishes may help make them more accurate, according to researchers.

The forms, currently known as POLST, or Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment, have been evolving as states' regulations on end-of-life care change, researchers said in a statement Tuesday. Their editorial appears in the September issue of the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. 

The University of Washington-based researchers argue that the phrase “life-sustaining treatment” may imply that the form is only meant to guide life-prolonging treatment. Researchers suggest addressing the issue by changing the name of the forms to “Medical Orders for End-of-Life Intervention,” or MOELI, which they believe to be more inclusive and accurate, and will “fill some gaps” in the original process.

“We hope that this stimulates discussions that will motivate various POLST organizations to collaborate in creating a standardized national form,” the researchers said in a statement. “Its adoption would have to be followed by the creation of multiple cultural adaptations that go beyond mere translation.”

 Their editorial also calls for the development of a national database of the orders, and increased efforts to educate providers and healthcare consumers about the MOELI tools.