WI Catholic Bishops Condemn POLST Forms Citing It Overrides Advanced Directives

Pro-Life Wisconsin commends Wisconsin Catholic Bishops for warning against use of

Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST)


Due to the serious and real threats to the dignity of human life that POLST and all similar documents
present, we encourage all Catholics to avoid using all such documents, programs, and materials.  The
POLST form should not be regarded as the standard model for designating treatment preferences.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |  July 26, 2012  Madison, WI – Yesterday the Wisconsin Catholic Bishops released a pastoral statement (pdf) on Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).  Entitled “Upholding the Dignity of Human Life,” the statement warns against the use of POLST forms in medical decision making. A POLST form does not require a patient’s signature and, according to the bishops, “bears the real risk that an indication may be made on it to withhold a treatment that, in particular circumstances, might be an act of euthanasia.” 

Pro-Life Wisconsin State Director Peggy Hamill offered the following comments:

“Pro-Life Wisconsin thanks the Wisconsin Catholic Bishops for their critical statement warning against the use of Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).  It will be a tremendous help to Pro-Life Wisconsin in our ongoing efforts to expose and limit the use of POLST here in Wisconsin, beginning with Christian medical providers.

“Brightly colored POLST forms are being presented to patients in Wisconsin and across the country who are viewed by caregivers as not worthy of life-sustaining care.  In other words, care, even minimal care, is viewed as futile or too costly. When attached to a medical chart, POLST can act to limit the use of life-saving treatment, technology, and even antibiotics and ordinary care such as food and hydration. POLST forms are presented to vulnerable patients often at a time when the patient’s appointed advocate should be the one making medical decisions.  Once the form is filled out and signed by a doctor or physician’s assistant, its effect is immediate and can override a patient’s own advance directive and judgments of the patient’s medical team on the scene.

“For well over a year Pro-Life Wisconsin has worked with local lawyers, medical personnel, clergy and patient advocates to educate on and advocate against the increasing use of POLST and similar documents in our nursing homes and hospitals.  We concur with the bishops’ recommendation to use a durable power of attorney for healthcare and avoid the use of living wills. Pro-Life Wisconsin provides free of charge our own Protective Power of Attorney for Healthcare (PPAHC) document. ”

Source:  Pro-Life Wisconsin

End press release


A brief description of POLST appears in Oregon’s Advance Directive.

Oregon POLST Form

Medical Journal: Unwilling Doctors Are A Barrier To Patient Suicide

click here:  Redefining Physicians’ Role in Assisted Dying — New England Journal of Medicine


Many medical professionals are uncomfortable with the idea of physicians playing an active role in ending patients’ lives,1 and the American Medical Association (AMA) and various state medical groups oppose legalization.

This position is not an insurmountable barrier, however; we propose a system that would remove the physician from direct involvement in the process.


Wesley J. Smith’s blog – ‘Assisted Suicide Proposal:  Death Panels on Steroids’