No matter what age you are, there may come a time when you are unable to make your own decisions about your healthcare. This is particularly true when you are in an emergency situation, such as a car accident or other unexpected situation where you are at the mercy of another person’s decisions.
Leaving written instructions on what kind of treatment you do and don’t want, and what to do if you are terminally ill or otherwise not expected to live (such as in the car accident example.) Letting your loved ones—and your physicians—know what kind of treatments you would and would not consent to will make things easier for everyone involved.
The state of Illinois allows you to make four types of these documents:
- A Living Will
- Healthcare Power Of Attorney
- A Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration
- Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR)/Practitioner Orders For Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
The Illinois Department of Public Health is also required to make these forms available to you, and they are available for free by download.
The Living Will
Also called an “advanced directive,” this document is only in effect if you have a terminal condition and can’t state your wishes regarding death-delaying treatments that would prolong the dying process.
Whether you write your own form or use a standard one, you must inform your physicians that you have one. You will need two witnesses to sign your living will, neither of whom can be a healthcare provider. You can change or cancel your living will in writing, or by notifying your provider or another person that you wish to do so.
Healthcare Power Of Attorney
Any power of attorney serves a basic purpose: naming an agent to represent you (the principal) in various types matters. In the healthcare arena, this POA will ensure that one individual is consulted and allowed to make decisions on your healthcare in the event that you are unable to or are incapacitated.
The state of Illinois also has the option of a “springing POA,” which takes effect if and when the principal becomes incapacitated. The “durable POA” goes into effect immediately, and can continue to be in effect after incapacity.
If you have both a living will and a healthcare POA, your named agent will be able to make healthcare decisions on your behalf unless he or she is unavailable.
More information is available at the State of Illinois’ website.
Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration
This directive is specific to mental health treatment, and allows you to specify what types of treatment you would consent to, as well as those that you would not, when you are unable to make the decisions for yourself.
Similar to a healthcare POA, you will select an individual who can make these decisions for you, and is called your “attorney-in-fact.” This person must be selected in writing, and cannot be:
- A relative by blood, adoption or marriage
- Your healthcare professional
- An employee or staff member of a healthcare facility where you would reside for treatment
The document must be witnessed by two individuals, and also not be a member of the three groups described above.
The individual you select as your attorney-in-fact must make decisions that are aligned with your stated wishes, unless there is a life-threatening emergency or a court order otherwise.
When your breathing and/or heart stops, a doctor will typically administer CPR. Having one of these two directives in place tells a physician not to administer CPR or otherwise attempt to restart your heart or breathing.
This directive must be signed by:
- Your authorized legal representative
- Legal guardian
- Agent in your healthcare power of attorney
- Health Care surrogate
- Your healthcare provider
- Other witness over the age of 18
Once these signatures are in place, they will be added to your medical records.
If You Don’t Have Healthcare Directives
Illinois law allows a health care surrogate to be appointed for you in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions and have not selected anyone to make them on your behalf. Two physicians must certify that you are unable to make those decisions before someone can be appointed. Typically, your spouse, children, parents or other relatives will be appointed to make decisions for you.
Understand that these directives are entirely your decision, made while you are competent and able to make informed decisions. You cannot be compelled to create any healthcare directives by a healthcare professional, health care facility, or healthcare insurer as a condition of providing services.
But having these directives completed and clearly laid out will take a burden off of your spouse, children and other loved ones should the time come where they are asked to make decisions about your healthcare.
Let Chicago’s Estate Planning Attorney Help With Your Healthcare Directives
You may find yourself in a medical situation where quick decisions are needed, but you’re unable to make them. Healthcare directives appoint the people who know your wishes in a position to make decisions for you should you be unable to do so.
With more than 20 years of experience helping hundreds of individuals with their estate plans throughout Chicago, James C. Provenza & Associates will work with you and develop the estate plan that works best for your beneficiaries, For healthcare or any types of power of attorney, speak with Chicago attorney James C. Provenza, by calling today at (847) 729-3939.