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Quijano Measure Permitting Physician Assistants to Sign Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Forms Clears Assembly Committee

Would Mandate Continuing Education Credits for Licensure

In an effort to further empower patients concerning their healthcare, a bill to allow physician assistants to sign, modify, or revoke Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms in the same manner as physicians and advanced practice nurses (APNs) cleared the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee Thursday. The legislation is sponsored by Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union).

The bill (A-2144), the Practitioner Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment Act, also requires physician assistants to complete two credits of continuing medical education relating to end-of-life care as a condition of continued licensure.

“Granting physician assistants with these privileges strengthens the healthcare delivery process,” said Quijano. “In many instances, patient volume or similar issues prevent a physician or APN from immediately tending to a POST form request. Equipping physician assistants with administrative powers concerning these forms adds another means whereby a patient’s wishes can be acted upon more quickly.”

As defined in the bill, a POLST form is a standardized printed document that is uniquely identifiable and has a uniform color. It complements an advance directive by converting a person’s wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment into a medical order. Currently, a POLST form may be created, modified, or revoked by a patient or, if the patient has lost decision-making capacity, the patient’s representative, and must be signed by a physician or APN. The bill would allow a physician assistant to sign a POLST form as well.

The measure would take effect immediately upon enactment. It was introduced on January 29 and now awaits further review by the assembly.