Practical information about determining your future medical care

including living wills and

powers of attorney for health care

Provided by: the Illinois State Medical Society

Determining Your Medical Care Is Your Right

While advances in medicine and medical technology can save many lives that only fifty years ago might have been lost, the issue of quality at the end of life has come under intensive judicial and public scrutiny. In the state of Illinois, it is your legal right at all times to determine the degree and kind of care you wish to receive. This includes your right to consent to or refuse medical care and treatment as long as you are capable to do so. You can also decide today and direct your health care providers and family about the care you want in the event of an illness or injury, including terminal illness, if you are unable then to make these decisions. You can decide today if you want procedures such as artificial breathing and kidney treatments, feeding through a tube or a vein, among others, if they would only prolong the process of dying and do no more than delay your death.

Decisions about the quality of the end of life ­ about life support systems, aggressive resuscitation efforts, about hydration and nutrition of comatose patients ­ are all serious, personal decisions each of us must arrive at privately. Neither the law nor any person can require you to make such a decision against your will. If you wish to exercise your right to determine the care you receive should you be injured or ill, this brochure will help you make an informed decision.

Illinois two documents are available for your use in directing your health care when you are incapable to do so: the durable power of attorney for health care and the living will. You can use either or both of these documents or you may write out your wishes and directives. The choice is yours and you can change your mind at any time. In the state of Illinois the best way to assure that your instructions about your health care are followed is through the use of a:

Durable power of attorney for health care.

Using this document you can designate someone else, called an agent or surrogate, to make decisions about your health care in the event you are unable to do so yourself. This person can, by law, be anyone you choose over the age of 18 (not 21) except the doctor providing your care. This person will have the legal right and responsibility to make decisions about your health care, including the initiation and termination of medical procedures and life support systems, organ donation and autopsy. For example, a person with irreversible brain injuries remains in a coma from which doctors have determined the patient will never recover.

The agent designated in the durable power of attorney for health care can refuse the antibiotic treatment that the hospital would administer should the patient develop pneumonia. Without antibiotics, the pneumonia would most likely be fatal. Because the patient has determined ­ in advance, through discussion with surrogates and by signing the durable power of attorney ­ that death should not be delayed in this circumstance, the agent is authorized to decline lifesaving efforts. Most people select a member of their family or a close friend to act as their surrogate in these situations. You may designate several surrogates, in case your first choice of a decision­maker is unavailable or unwilling to serve. Whoever you choose, you should discuss your wishes with them.

While your caregivers must respect your surrogate's decisions and the court will uphold them, the surrogate or agent can be removed by the court if doing so is determined to be in your best interest. Your physician and the hospital will also play a part in that decision.
This booklet includes a short form Durable Power of attorney for Health Care, legal in the state of
Illinois. This form is not required but it is the surest way to meet all the specifications of Illinois law. If you decide to execute the durable power of attorney, be sure to inform your doctor, the hospital and your family. Keep the form in a safe place and let someone you trust know where it is.

The Living Will

The living will does not appoint another person to make your health care decisions but declares your intent that if your medical condition is incurable and irreversible the people taking care of you not delay your death, if it is imminent, through lifesaving measures. It allows you to control your health care even if you cannot communicate with the people caring for you.

For example, a cancer patient whom the doctors estimate has only weeks to live can, through the use of a living will, instruct the hospital that no extraordinary measures are to be taken to prolong her life; if she suffers cardiac arrest, for example, the hospital is not to attempt to revive her. She may also choose to decline the future use of a respirator, or techniques such as blood transfusions or kidney dialysis.

Any adult (over the age of 18) of sound mind can make a living will. It must be created as a voluntary act, must be signed by a patient (or another person at the direction of the patient) and must be witnessed by two adults. The living will has no effect legally unless the physician responsible for the patient's care certifies, in writing, that the patient's condition is terminal, that death is imminent, and that death­delaying procedures will only prolong the process of dying. Nutrition and hydration may not be withheld or withdrawn if such act and not the existing medical condition will cause death. The living will form in this brochure has been developed by the
Illinois legislature; you may include other directions and instructions, as well.

Living Will

The Living Will Act includes the following suggested form:

Declaration (As included in the Illinois Living Will Act, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, Ch. 110 1/2 par. 703) This declaration is made this day of

________________________________________________________ (month, year).

I,________________________________________ being of sound mind, willfully and voluntarily make known my desires that my moment of death shall not be artificially postponed.

If at any time I should have an incurable and irreversible injury, disease or illness judged to be a terminal condition by my attending physician who has personally examined me and has determined that my death is imminent except for death­delaying procedures, I direct that such procedures which would only prolong the dying process be withheld or withdrawn, and that I be permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication, sustenance, or the performance of any medical procedure deemed necessary by my attending physician to provide me with comfort care.

In the absence of my ability to give directions regarding the use of such death­delaying procedures, it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored by my family and physician as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical or surgical treatment and accept the consequences from such refusal.


City, County and State of Residence __________________________________________________________

The declarant is personally known to me and I believe him or her to be of sound mind. I saw the declarant sign the declaration in my presence, or the declarant acknowledged in my presence that he or she had signed the declaration, and I signed the declaration as a witness in the presence of the declarant. I did not sign the declarant's signature above for or at the direction of the declarant. At the date of this instrument, I am not entitled to any portion of the estate of the declarant according to the laws of intestate succession or to the best of my knowledge and belief, under any will of declarant or other instrument taking effect at declarant's death or directly financially responsible for declarant's medical care.

Witness ______________________________________________________________

Witness ______________________________________________________________

(Comment: Even though the Act states that another form, which may include specific prohibitions or types of procedures that may be acceptable, it is advisable that any variation from the form above should be subject to review by an attorney to assure its validity.)

Changing Your Decision

You can at any time amend, alter or void your living will or durable power of attorney by destroying the document or preparing a written statement declaring your intent to set them aside.
The forms in this brochure allow you to direct your family, your health care providers and the others involved in your medical care to follow your wishes, should the time come when these difficult decisions must be made. You need not consult an attorney to put any of these into effect; it is very important, however, that you discuss your decisions and these documents with your family, your physician and your legal advisor, to assure that your wishes are followed.

Consequences of not executing an Advance Directive

If you do not execute an advance directive and your medical condition is terminal, incurable or irreversible, you lack decisional capacity, or you are permanently unconscious, a surrogate may be appointed for you. This surrogate will have the authority to make life­sustaining treatment decisions for you. In other circumstances, your hospital, another health care institution or doctors may be required to do everything in their power to keep you alive, no matter what your condition or chances of recovery.

Illinois Power of Attorney Act Official Statutory Form
11 Rev. Stat., (a), Effective Jan. 1, 1990

Illinois Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney For Health Care

Notice: the purpose of this Power of attorney is to give the Person you designate (your "agent") broad powers to make health care decisions for you, including power to require, consent to or withdraw any type of personal care or medical treatment for any physical or mental condition and to admit you to or discharge you from any hospital, home or other institution. This form does not impose a duty on your agent to exercise granted powers; but when powers are exercised, your agent will have to use due care to act for your benefit and in accordance with this form and keep a record of receipts, disbursements and significant actions taken as agent. A court can take away the powers of your agent if it finds the agent is not acting properly. You may name successor agents under this form but not co­agents, and no health care provider may be named. Unless you expressly limit the duration of this power in the manner provided below, until you revoke this power or a court acting on your behalf terminates it, your agent may exercise the powers given here throughout your lifetime, even after you become disabled The powers you give your agent, your right to revoke those powers and the penalties for violating the law are explained more fully in sections 4­5, 4­6, 4­9 and 4­10(b) of the Illinois "Powers of attorney for Health Care Law" of which this form is a part. That law expressly permits the use of any different form of power of attorney you may desire. If there is anything about this form that you do not understand, you should ask a lawyer to explain it to you.

Power of Attorney made this ________day   _________(month)_______ (year)  

(insert name and address of principal)

hereby appoint ___________________________________________________________________________
(insert name and address of agent for removal of life­sustaining treatment are set forth below. If you agree with one of these statements, you may initial that statement ­ but do not initial more than one):

(Initial_______ )
I do not want my life to be prolonged nor do I want life­sustaining treatment to be provided or continued if my agent believes the burdens of the treatment outweigh the expected benefits. I want my agent to consider the relief of suffering, the expense involved and the quality as well as the possible extension of my life in making decisions concerning life sustaining treatment, hospitalization and health care and to require, withhold or withdraw any type of medical treatment or procedure, even though my death may ensue. My agent shall have the same access to my medical records that I have, including the fight to disclose the contents to others. My agent shall also have full power to make a disposition of any part or all of my body for medical purposes, authorize an autopsy and direct the disposition of my remains.

(The above grant of power is intended to be as broad as possible so that your agent will have authority to make any decision you could make to obtain or terminate any type of health care, including withdrawal of food and water and other life­sustaining measures, if your agent believes such action would be consistent with your intent and desires. If you wish to limit the scope of your agent's powers or prescribe special rules or limit the power to make an anatomical gift, authorize autopsy or dispose of remains, you may do so in the following paragraphs.)

2. The powers granted above shall not include the following powers or shall be subject to the following rules or limitations (here you may include any specific limitations) as my attorney­in­fact (my "agent") to act for me and in my name (in any way I could act in person) to make any and all decisions for me concerning my personal care, medical limitations you deem appropriate, such as: your own definition of when life­sustaining measures should be withheld; a direction to continue food and fluids or life­sustaining treatment in all events; or instructions to refuse any specific types of treatment that are inconsistent with your religious beliefs or unacceptable to you for any other reason, such as blood transfusion, electro­convulsive therapy, amputation, psychosurgery, voluntary admission to a mental institution, etc.:

The subject of life­sustaining treatment is of particular importance. For your convenience in dealing with that subject, some general statements concerning the withholding treatment.

(Initial_______ ) I want my life to be prolonged and I want life­sustaining treatment to be provided or continued unless I am in a coma which my attending physician believes to be irreversible, in accordance with reasonable medical standards at the time of reference. If and when I have suffered irreversible coma, I want life­sustaining treatment to be withheld or discontinued.

(Initial_______ ) I want my life to be prolonged to the greatest extent possible without regard to my condition, the chances I have for recovery or the cost of the procedures.

(This power of attorney may be amended or revoked by you in the manner provided in section 4­6 of the
Illinois "Powers of attorney for Health Care Law. "Absent amendment or revocation, the authority granted in this power of attorney will become effective at the time this power is signed and will continue until your death, and beyond if anatomical gift, autopsy or disposition of remains is authorized, unless a limitation on the beginning date or duration is made by initialing and completing either or both of the following.)

( ) This power of attorney shall become effective on________________________________________________________________________ (insert a future date or event during your lifetime, such as a court determination of your disability, when you want this power to first take effect)

( ) This power of attorney shall terminate on __________________________________________________________________________
(insert a future date or event, such as a court determination of your disability, when you want this power to terminate prior to your death)

(If you wish to name successor agents, insert the names and addresses of such successors in the following paragraph.)

5. If any agent named by me shall die, become incompetent, resign, refuse to accept the office of agent or be unavailable, I name the following (each to act alone and successively, in the order named) as successors to such agent: _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

For purposes of this paragraph 5, a person shall be considered to be incompetent if and while the person is a minor or an adjudicated incompetent or disabled person or the person is unable to give prompt and intelligent consideration to health care matters, as certified by a licensed physician.

(If you wish to name your agent as guardian of your person, in the event a court decides that one should be appointed, you may, but are not required to, do so by retaining the following paragraph. The court will appoint your agent if the court finds that such appointment will serve your best interests and welfare. Strike out paragraph 6 if you do not want your agent to act as guardian.)

6. If a guardian of my person is to be appointed, I nominate the agent acting under this power of attorney as such guardian, to serve without bond or security.

7. I am fully informed as to all the contents of this form and understand the full import of this grant of powers to my agent.


The principal has had an opportunity to read the above form and has signed the form or acknowledged his or her signature or
mark on the form in my presence. Residing at:_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (witness)________________________________________________________________

(You may, but are not required to, request your agent and successor agents to provide specimen signatures below. If you include specimen signatures in this power of attorney, you must complete the certification opposite the signatures of the agents.)

Specimen signatures of agent (and successors).

I certify that the signatures of my agent (and successors) are correct.

(agent) (principal)

______________________________ __________________
(successor agent) (principal)

______________________________ __________
(successor agent) (principal)