As described in the overview of Ethical & Legal Requirements there are seven checklists available to ensure the correct requirements are followed when making end-of-life decisions. These requirements are based on the nationally recommended ethical framework and they’re codified in NYS Public Health Law. Five of these checklists (Checklists 1-5) apply to adult patients; those are the checklists that will be described on this page. Once the correct checklist is determined, there are various requirements related to witnessing, capacity determination, clinical standards, ethics review committees and notifications that vary by Checklist and by the special considerations for an individual patient.
Several requirements apply on all pathways including:
While these items always hold true, there are a number of requirements that vary by checklist. A comparison of the major variable components of these checklists is available in the chart below.
The simplest pathway is always when the patient is able to make their own decisions. This pathway is known as Checklist 1.
MOLST completion is encouraged in a setting where the patient and physician or nurse practitioner know each other and can have a calm conversation about health status, prognosis, goals and preferences prior to making decisions about end-of-life medical orders. This is an ideal situation and physicians and nurse practitioners are always encouraged to offer MOLST discussions with appropriate patients.
Because it is not always possible for every patient to make their own decisions at all times, all patients 18+ should be encouraged to have advance care planning conversations with their family and complete a health care proxy. If necessary, their designated health care agent can step into their shoes and make end-of-life decisions for them. The health care agent is obligated to make decisions as the patient would make them. This pathway is known as Checklist 2. Because the patient lacks capacity to make decisions on this pathway, capacity determination from the attending physician or nurse practitioner and a concurring physician or nurse practitioner are required.
After the first two pathways the legal and ethical requirements become more complex as the patient did not designate their own health care agent to speak for them and additional patient protections are put into place to ensure decisions are patient-centered and appropriate for the clinical situation. Attending and concurring capacity determination and attending and concurring clinical standards documentation are always required on these pathways. Checklist 3 and Checklist 4 may only be used in the hospital, nursing home or hospice setting. Checklist 5 may only be used in the community. The surrogates in all these situations are obligated to make decisions as the patient would make them or using the best interest standard if wishes are not known; one pathway (Checklist 5) additionally requires “clear and convincing evidence” for decisions other than DNR and DNI. Depending on the setting and the patient’s prognosis, review of the decisions by the facility’s ethics committee may also be required.
Checklists 3, 4 & 5 depend on the correct surrogate being selected from the list provided in New York’s Family Health Care Decisions Act (FHCDA). The surrogate list is in order of priority as follows:
The attending physician or nurse practitioner must engage the right surrogate in order of priority. Surrogates may defer and in those circumstances the next surrogate on the list is engaged. Surrogates may also choose to not be involved in the discussion or decisions. This should be documented as part of the conversation.
Beginning June 17, 2020, physician assistants will have responsibility for the legal and ethical requirements of MOLST, the pathways above, as well as the ability to sign MOLST forms.
Each of these pathways also has special requirements for patients who lack capacity due to mental illness (Checklist 2, 3, 4 & 5) or developmental disabilities (Checklist 2 only; patients with DD cannot use Checklists 3, 4 or 5), as well as notifications that are required for patients coming from certain settings.
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