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Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will

Under Illinois law, two methods for protecting your rights and wishes are available when you are unable, due to medical reasons, to make decisions yourself. The Power of Attorney for Health Care (POAHC) and the Living Will allow you to specify, in advance, the medical measures to be taken to preserve your life should you become unable to yourself. While both methods ensure that your wishes will be respected, there are significant differences between the two.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

The POAHC allows you to designate an agent to make medical decisions or to take care of your affairs on your behalf should you be unable to do so. The POAHC has a broader scope of available options than does a Living Will. You designate a trusted individual, usually either a family member or a close friend, to make decisions on your behalf.

In drafting your POAHC, you can designate the power of attorney to take effect when you sign it or at some future time, such as a specific date or upon the occurrence of a specific event. For example, you could designate your power of attorney to take effect on your 70th birthday, or when you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make decisions regarding your medical treatment.

The POAHC also allows you to designate the specific powers granted to your agent. You can designate as little or as much power as you want. Some people may only be comfortable allowing their agent to make decisions on the appropriateness of medical treatment to be administered, while others may want their agent the right to make anatomical gifts after death or to authorize autopsies. In any case, the form gives the person signing it the power to withhold any power from the agent he is not comfortable in granting.

Once it becomes effective, your POAHC will continue to grant your agent the powers you designate until your POAHC indicates that you wish those powers to cease. Generally, a POAHC is effective until your death. You may also include a clause to allow your agent to arrange for and carry out the disposition of your remains. In some cases, the POAHC may terminate the agent's power upon some specific event, such as when you become able to conduct your own affairs again. Just as you can designate when the agent's powers begin, you can also designate when they end.

Living Will

A Living Will gives specific instructions to your doctor. The Living Will dictates that the doctor should not use life saving resuscitation when your condition is terminal. When your condition is incurable or irreversible, making your death imminent, a Living Will assures that your wish not to have your life prolonged is respected. The Living Will does not create an agent to make decisions on your behalf, but instead directs the doctor to respect the decision you have already made. A Living Will does not allow input from your family and friends, but saves them from having to make the decision not to resuscitate you, should that be necessary.

A Living Will complements your POAHC. The POAHC allows you to decide the powers to give your agent to act on your behalf, while the Living Will allows you to decide how far your doctor should go to sustain your life when death is imminent.

Always consult a qualified attorney when making a Living Will or a Power of Attorney for Health Care.

This website is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and/or maintaining the website and its contents, Lucas Law does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions outside of Illinois wherein Lucas Law or its individual attorney(s) are not licensed or authorized to practice law.

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