Often times, when people think of creating a will, they think of estate planning. While estate planning for your finances is certainly important, it's not the only aspect of planning for your future, including your demise and the legacy you leave. The other aspect you should consider is what to do for medical decisions when you can no longer make them, which is accomplished through an advance health care directive. This term collectively includes a living will or a power of attorney for health care.
In short, an advance health care directive is a document which, among other things, specifies whether or not the creator of the document wants to be put on life support when facing a life-threatening illness, and/or naming one or more persons who would make health care decisions when the creator cannot communicate with the doctor.
If you do not have a living will, or better yet, a durable power of attorney for health care, in place and you are unable to communicate, doctors or family may not be able as a matter of Illinois law to make certain end-of-life decisions for you. For instance, a family member would legally be unable to remove you from life support, even if you wish not to be kept alive by a machine in circumstances where your quality of life is extremely undesirable, and in particular, where the cost of keeping you alive bankrupts your surviving spouse and family. If you are under a doctor's care, his or her Hippocratic Oath supersedes the wishes of the family, and compels the doctor to keep you alive, regardless of the costs or consequences.
Looking to understand a little more about advance health care directives, which is the collective name for a power of attorney for health care or a living will? Read on for some relevant pointers.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is a document drafted by the State of Illinois which is a letter to your doctor that, in the limited circumstances specified, tells the doctors what a specific patient will and won't allow in terms of medical treatment. For it to apply, you must be diagnosed with a terminal illness, and death must be imminent, i.e. a matter of days or a few weeks at best.
A living will is an important document to have should you ever fall into a coma or vegetative state. Because you are not able to communicate with doctors while in this condition, your legally-binding living will can communicate for you. And, if you don't have an advance health care directive, your doctor is ethically required to keep you alive as long as medically possible, regardless of the quality of your life, the expected outcome, and the cost of keeping you alive.
Understanding A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
In many circumstances, a living will does not apply. You may not be terminal, even if you are comatose or in a vegetative state. We've all seen stories of persons in these circumstances, where despite the wishes of a spouse, parent or other close family member, the person is kept alive indefinitely. And if all you have is a living will, that is not enough. To resolve the broader medical circumstances that can apply to you at the end of your life, you must have a durable power of attorney for health care. While the two concepts of a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care are related, the living will alone does not suffice in many, many circumstances that can apply.
A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document stating that a designated person is allowed to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated to the point that you cannot communicate with your doctor. It allows another person to make important health decisions for you. And, to insure that your wishes are carried out, it makes sense to name at least one or two successors, should your preferred person be unwilling or unable to act.
Individuals will usually create both documents. However, it is not necessary to create both a living will and a durable power of attorney. All you really need in Illinois is a power of attorney for health care, and if the person you name disagrees with your doctor, he or she can override your living will to extend your life.
What Can Be Specified in a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?
When it comes to medical treatment, a power of attorney for health care can specify just about anything you want them to specify. They can be designed to take all types of different medical situations into account, informing doctors of when you would or would not wish for further medical treatment. Your POA can specify your desire to utilize some types of medications while rejecting other types. They can do the same for different types of medical treatments as well.
Should You Create an Advance Health Care Directive?
The short answer is YES!. If you want to have any say over your medical care after you've become incapacitated, you will have to create a durable power of attorney or a living will. Doing so can help to bring you some peace of mind in the event of a medical emergency.
Looking for an Estate Attorney in Niles?
Have you decided to create an advance health care directive? Are you looking for an estate attorney in Niles, Illinois? If so, the experts here at John J. Pembroke & Associates are the people to see.
Our team of seasoned attorneys is well versed in estate law, and we've helped countless clients plan their end-of-life wishes. We look forward to working with you.
Contact us today to learn more and get started on the living will process.