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Changes coming to Illinois’ power of attorney law

Changes coming to Illinois’ power of attorney law

Happy senior couple driving modern car on their vacation trip

According to the research group Purple Insight, older Americans strongly believe that doctors should strictly follow health care directives that a patient has put in place.

The firm surveyed more than 1,000 adults who are 50 years or older, and roughly 25 percent of the participants stated that either they or a loved one has had a negative experience in which a physician administered either unwanted or unnecessary treatment.

This survey clearly illustrates the importance of having a power of attorney. People in Illinois should be aware of the changes in the state’s laws that could have a major impact on those who have or are forming end-of-life policies.

What has changed

Previously, the legislation featured complicated language that may have been hard for people to interpret without the assistance of an attorney. The new law has been simplified and provides detailed instructions for how to complete the power of attorney form.

It is important to note that part of this simplification has actually led to fewer options. The new law dictates that those doing estate planning will only have two statements regarding their health care directives. Prior to the change, patients had three options, which were the following:

  • If the burdens of a treatment would outweigh the benefits, a patient could choose not to prolong life
  • A patient could choose to prolong life as long as possible without regard to condition
  • A patient could choose to prolong life unless the condition is an irreversible coma

Now, patients may only choose between protecting the quality of life or the length of their life, with no in-between. Critics of the new law state that having the third option that weighed the benefits versus the burdens of treatment gave patients more flexibility.

Designating a power of attorney

The new law has also changed the way that someone may choose a power of attorney. Now, people can designate a healthcare power of attorney by putting it in writing, but no witness is necessary. Prior to the change, the guidelines required that a witness was present and also set forth strict guidelines as to who could serve in that capacity.

Making end-of-life decisions may not be easy, but it can ease the process for family members who are put in charge of a patient’s life. The American Bar Association notes that people should carefully choose their power of attorney and avoid designating a spouse or a physician. People who have questions regarding the new guidelines should consult with an attorney who practices elder law.

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