WVU doctor speaks on end-of-life issues at national conference

Moss shares West Virginia’s experience in respecting patients’ wishes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginians expect their end-of-life care wishes to be respected, according to Alvin Moss, M.D., director for the West Virginia University Center of Health Ethics and Law and professor of medicine.  Moss will speak at the Annual Assembly of American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) and Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) March 25 in Austin, Texas.

“For a lot of people, especially as they get older and develop medical problems, they say, ‘I’ve lived a good life. I don’t want to be dying on a machine. I want to die at home comfortable with my family around me,’” Moss said. “It’s key to identify and respect patients’ end of life wishes.”

The assembly is designed for healthcare providers involved in caring for patients with terminal illnesses.

Dr. Moss will be discussing the POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Paradigm during a workshop at the assembly.

Alvin Moss, MD

The POLST Paradigm is designed to improve end-of-life care by converting patients’ treatment preferences into medical orders that are transferable throughout the healthcare system. Its goal is to ensure that patients’ treatment wishes are known and respected.

The POLST Paradigm has been recognized as a best practice in palliative care by the National Quality Forum. Palliative care is the relief of pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness, with a goal of improving quality of life for patients.

West Virginia – where the program is called POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) – was one of the first three states to adopt the program. More than 200,000 forms have been distributed in the state since 2002.

“The idea behind the POST form is the physician sits down and has a conversation with the patient,” Moss said. “Based on the patient’s condition, the patient fills out a form that would indicate that they don’t want to be resuscitated at the end of life or state that they don’t want to be put on breathing machines.”

A survey concluded that 75 percent of West Virginians with chronic illnesses do not want to be on life support machines. Research shows that 85 percent of nursing homes are using the POST form.

“Healthcare providers understand the importance of the form and recommend it to their patients,” Moss said. “It’s in demand.”

For more information see www.wvendoflife.org or call West Virginia Center for End-of-Life Care at 877-209-8086.



For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
el: 03-19-09

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