OHSU Physician To Discuss Oregon's Unique End-Of-Life Program At D.C. Conference

07/14/05    Portland, Ore.

Susan Tolle, M.D., director of the Oregon Health & Science University Center for Ethics in Health Care, has been invited to Washington, D.C., to present information about a unique program called Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment.

The program helps ensure seriously ill patients' wishes to have or limit medical treatments are respected. Tolle's presentation will take place at the 2005 White House Conference on Aging Solutions Forum on July 19. It will feature a select group of national aging experts from across the country. The meeting's goal is to identify solutions to improving care for the elderly.

Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or POLST, is a program launched in Oregon in 1996. "POLST allows chronically ill patients to better express their end-of-life health care wishes," said Tolle who also is a practicing internist at OHSU.

The program's centerpiece is the POLST form. The bright, pink form provides specific health care directives about treatments that are wanted by a patient and those that are not. A physician's signature gives the POLST form its power. Once signed, the form is placed in a visible location so it can be located easily by medical workers in an emergency. The form also travels with a patient as he or she moves from nursing home to the hospital setting so end-of-life wishes are respected at every health care location.

Based on the program's success in Oregon, multiple states are now adopting the POLST program to improve the final days for loved ones across the country. States that have adopted the POLST program include Oregon, Washington and West Virginia. The program also is used in sections of Georgia, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and in the District of Columbia. 

The National POLST paradigm Task Force, an Oregon-based committee administratively housed at the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care, directs national dissemination of the program. More information about the task force is at www.polst.org.

In addition to presenting information about the POLST program in Washington, D.C., Tolle will discuss with other health professionals how information gathered from the families of dying patients is being used to improve the health systems for future dying patients.

Dr. Tolle will be in Washington, D.C., July 18 through July 20. To reach her prior to or during her trip, contact OHSU News and Publications at 503 494-8231.