The Bishops of Minnesota have recently written “Stewards of the Gift of Life,” a pastoral statement that has great significance for those nearing the end of life. This document cautions the faithful of a new form that many hospitals, long-term care facilities and healthcare systems are using: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining treatment (POLST).
POLST is preferred in healthcare facilities because it streamlines the difficult and often time-consuming process of making end of life decisions. It does this by way of a form that defines the desired actions to be taken (or not) at the end of life.
The bishops wish to advise, however, that the decision-making process cannot be completed when the circumstances are unknown. A particular medical intervention could be unethical or morally obligatory depending on the circumstances. In other words, the moral decision making process cannot be determined ahead of time due to the simple fact that the future cannot be known!