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State releases new form that will help patients' families make end-of-life decisions, P.1

Last Friday, the New Jersey Hospital Association and the state of New Jersey released a new form known as Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. The form enables terminal patients to decide, together with their families, the type of end-of-life treatment they want while they are still able to make that choice.

The form will be distributed to hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers to allow patients to have better access to this resource. In addition, the state is recommending that doctors and nurse practitioners complete the form with all patients who have a life expectancy of less than five years. Once the form is filled out, every doctor in the state is required to abide by it.

The form itself was first framed by a 2011 state law and defined recently. At this point, the regulation to enforce the rule has not yet been written, and the state of New Jersey has yet to issue a timeframe regarding that process. The regulation will require the form to be filled out by a healthcare provider based on a conversation with the patient or the patient's guardian or on an advance directive often used as part of estate planning.

Healthcare officials recommend that the form be updated whenever the patient's status changes. This would include events such as when the patient is moved from a hospital to a hospice and other serious status changes.

Once the form is completed, it would travel with the patient and ultimately become part of his or her electronic medical record as healthcare providers begin to implement them. It would have the force of a medical order, meaning that all providers would have to abide by its instructions. Governor Chris Christie vetoed an earlier version of the bill that would have permitted providers to overrule the patient's wishes as expressed on the form.

In our next post, we'll continue speaking about the new form.

Source: njspotlight.com, "New Form Helps Clarify End-of-life Decisions for Patients and Families," Andrew Kitchenman, February 25, 2013

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