By JoNel Aleccia, California Healthline
Just four hours earlier, Sallie Cutler had been sharing Mother’s Day lunch with her mom, Alyce Cheatham.
Then, that same evening, Cheatham, 96, landed in a Portland, Ore., emergency room, lethargic, unable to speak and paralyzed on her right side by a massive stroke.
Cutler now admits her first impulse was to demand action.
“It’s, like, do something; make her better,” said Cutler. “As a child, you can’t just say let her die.”
But Cheatham’s medical records contained a different demand. When the doctor on duty at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) clicked once in the chart header, it was immediately clear: Cheatham wanted no efforts to prolong her life.
“He said, ‘The good news is, your mom had a POLST form, so you don’t really have any decisions to make,’” recalled Cutler, 63, of Sherwood, Ore.
“I was so relieved. I cannot tell you how relieved I was. She had made all the decisions for me ahead of time.”
POLST forms, formally known as Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, have become a staple in care for the fragile or seriously ill. They document in detail what kind of medical treatments patients want — or don’t want — at the end of life. Nearly every state in the U.S. has a program; dozens are established or developing.
But in Oregon, where the documents were developed in the early 1990s, organizers have taken a step to ensure that final medical wishes are honored.
Officials at OHSU have partnered with a California technology firm, Vynca, to allow health care providers to electronically find any of the 172,000 active forms in Oregon’s POLST registry with a single click, no matter where they were filed.
Since the link went live June 1, OHSU providers have clicked nearly 14,000 times, said Dana Zive, the registry’s director.
“It’s not just in the ER setting,” Zive said. “It’s actually any health professional, in any setting.”
California, which has…