A Season for End-of-Life Planning

The following article is by Sister Patricia Codey, SC, Esq., from the Catholic Healthcare Partnership of New Jersey.

As Christians all over the world begin their Good Friday services, the image of Jesus suffering and dying on the cross reminds us of our own mortality.

Though it is difficult for one to truly accept death, New Jersey’s Practitioner Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) help us and our loved ones prepare for that day.

Unlike its forerunner – an Advanced Directive – POLST is an actual medical order signed by the patient and primary care provider which outlines the patient’s plan of care. POLST is specifically for individuals facing an advanced illness to properly address their healthcare wishes for the end of life. By taking those wishes and making them into an actionable medical order, POLST respects the patient’s decisions while providing the most compassionate and medically astute options. Advanced Directives, in contrast, should be completed by individuals long before they are faced with a serious illness. Completing an Advanced Directive will help individuals complete a POLST when illness strikes.

POLST and its new electronic accessibility initiative is consistent with the Catholic theological/ethical tradition as it aligns with Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The POLST form shall be completed within the context of the patient’s wishes, religion and cultural beliefs.

Unfortunately, recent studies indicate that more than 60% of individuals have not documented their end-of-life wishes.  

With Easter Sunday approaching, which incidentally is also National Healthcare Decisions Day, we should all reflect on our end-of-life wishes and remember the words of Pope Pius XII, “Life, health, all temporal activities are subordinate to spiritual ends.” 

About the Catholic Healthcare Partnership of New Jersey (CHCPNJ)

CHCPNJ is a statewide coalition established by the leaders of Catholic healthcare in New Jersey to advance the healing mission of the Catholic Church. Our mission is to provide compassionate care to all, especially the poor and vulnerable, securing access to healthcare while representing their health policies to the State. CHCPNJ represents Catholic acute care hospitals and other faith-based health care facilities.