POLST Signature Requirements: Responding With Compassion While Ensuring Informed Consent

POLST Signature Requirements: Responding With Compassion While Ensuring Informed Consent
Research Article
Robert Macauley, Susan Tolle
American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 1 September 2020
Open Access
Abstract
The majority of states require the signature of a surrogate decision maker on a POLST form for a patient who lacks decisional capacity. While commendable in its intention to ensure informed consent, in some cases this may lead the surrogate to feel that they are signing their loved one’s “death warrant,” adding to their emotional and spiritual distress. In this paper we argue that such a signature should be recommended rather than required, as it is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition of informed consent. Additional steps—such as requiring the attestation and documentation of the signing health care professional that verbal consent was fully informed and voluntary—can achieve the ultimate goal of respecting patient autonomy without adding to the surrogate’s burden.

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