Naperville Attorney Discusses Amended Law Regarding Power of Attorney for Health Care

power of attorney, medical decisions, Naperville estate planning attorneyIn the event that you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your own health care, it is important to have a plan in place that allows another responsible person to do so. Without a plan, your medical decisions may be made on your behalf by well-meaning health care providers who may not fully understand your personal values or wishes for future care. A power of attorney for health care offers you the ability to appoint a trusted individual to look after your medical needs, according to your wishes, when you are no longer able to.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

Illinois law provides that a person, or “principal,” may designate an “agent” to make medical decisions, including end-of-life decisions, on his or her behalf. The instrument for appointing such an agent is known as a power of attorney for health care, and for 2015, the law regarding such documents was given a type of makeover by the state legislature.

Needed Change

The changes to the law primarily deal with a standardized method of creating a power of attorney for health care document. Many, including the Illinois State Medical Society, believed that previous versions of the law and form were far too confusing and included “too much technical language.” In response, state lawmakers simplified the language in the law, making it much easier for the average citizen to understand. New guidelines were also created for the Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney for Health Care.

Simplified Format

The new form, as included in the amended law, is constructed in a straightforward Q&A format. Unlike the old version which included sections rife with legal formalities, the form now breaks down each important element for a principal to consider in a manner that is easy to follow and comprehend. The goal is to help individuals, along with their estate planning attorneys, create the power of attorney for health care that best meets their needs without undue complications.

Two Major Decisions

In addition to the format changes and a few clarifications, the amended law also includes two controversial topics that the power of attorney for health care may address, one of which must be included. The first such topic, which is optional, allows the principal to decide between two definitive and distinct statements regarding quality of life. Specifically, by means of a check-box, the principal may choose to place the utmost importance on:

  • Quality of life: Living well and communicating with family and friends is much more important than simply delaying death; or
  • Length of life: Being alive is preferable to being dead, regardless of mental condition, illness, suffering, costs, or probability of recovery.

These statements are designed to provide direction to an agent on how to proceed with decision-making. They may be replaced by a more structured living will or other type of advance medical directives.

The second check-box style choice given to a principal indicates when the power of attorney for health care is to become effective and must be addressed in some form. An agent may begin exercising his or her authority:

  • Upon the principal’s incapacitation: A medical professional has determined the principal is no longer able to make reasonable decisions;
  • Immediately: The agent will not be required to wait for a declaration from a doctor and can make decisions upon the signing of the document. The principal retains the power to override any decisions while he or she is still able.

While the amended law certainly looks to make developing a power of attorney for health care much easier, there are still a large number of factors you must clearly understand and consider. An experienced Naperville estate planning attorney can help you be sure that everything has been properly covered and that your power of attorney for health care provides the protection you need. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.