What Is an Advance Directive?
Advance directives are signed statements that direct how we should receive medical treatment in the future in the event we are no longer able to make healthcare decisions on our own. Under Illinois law, there are four types of advance directives, which include the following:
- Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPA);
- Living Will (personalized healthcare wishes);
- Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration; and
- Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR)/Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST).
Decisions governed by advance directives will vary based on the type of advance directive at issue. To document personal healthcare wishes, you would utilize a living will, which is a written legal document. Examples of decisions outlined in a living will, which is a written legal document, include, but may not be limited to, the following:
- Whether to administer CPR or impose a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) directive;
- Whether to administer other life-saving care, such as mechanical ventilation, insertion of a feeding tube, dialysis, antibiotics, and antiviral medications, among others;
- Whether to administer palliative care, which is intended to provide comfort for the terminally ill;
- Whether to donate organs or tissues following death; and
- Whether to donate your body following death.
Don’t take any risks by attempting a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach. Choosing to enlist the services of an Arlington Heights, Illinois estate planning lawyer helps to ensure a living will complies with Illinois and federal law.
Appointing a Healthcare Representative
When executing a living will, you must appoint a healthcare representative. The representative can be any person, including, among others, an independent healthcare agent, a friend, or a family member. Because living wills are legal documents, the healthcare representative must adhere to the wishes outlined in the living will.
A healthcare power of attorney (HCPA) similarly appoints an agent or “attorney-in-fact” to make decisions on your behalf when you become incapacitated. However, unless your wishes are outlined in a living will, the healthcare representative identified in an HCPA has the power to make his or her own decisions about how to administer your healthcare should you no longer be able to make healthcare decisions for yourself.
Understanding a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Directive
One type of specific advance directive is the do-not-resuscitate (DNR) directive. A DNR directive is intended to make clear that you do not want another person attempting CPR if you stop breathing or your heart stops.
What Are Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLSTs)?
A physician order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) directs a physician to adhere to wishes as to whether any life-sustaining treatment should be given at all, and if so, what type of life-sustaining treatment should be given. Like DNRs, POLSTs may be used to direct a healthcare provider to not administer any life-sustaining treatment.
Taking Steps to Modify an Advance Directive
Advance directives are not set in stone. So long as you are alive and able to make decisions on your own, you can change the content of living wills, terminate an existing living will, or terminate any other type of advance directive, such as a standard form signed at a healthcare institution. When considering modification of an advance directive, it is best to work alongside an estate planning lawyer who can advocate on your behalf.