New power of attorney for health care in Illinois

I’m not sure why the Illinois legislature keeps jazzing around with law issues that don’t need to be fixed. It’s not like there is a shortage of messed up things that they could be fixing with new laws.

A couple years ago they gave us the Real Estate Transfer on Death Instrument Act. I think about two people have used that brilliant law to avoid probate on their homes. I have never seen a single property with a transfer on death instrument on it.

Now, the legislature also amended the power of attorney for health care law effective January 1, 2015. The old power of attorney for health care was just fine in my humble opinion.

The new one starts out with three pages of explanation to the person signing it. It is now written so that an 8th grader could understand it. But the intro/explanation is way too long and I doubt many people are going to read much of it.

There is a big change in the section on life-sustaining treatment. The old power of attorney gave three choices for life sustaining treatment and most clients picked the first one of the three. These were the OLD choices:

  1.  I do not want my life to be prolonged nor do I want life sustaining 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.

  1. I want my life to be prolonged and I want life sustaining treatment to be provided or continued, unless I am, in the opinion of my attending physician, in accordance with reasonable medical standards at the time of reference, in a state of “permanent unconsciousness” or suffer from an “incurable or irreversible condition” or “terminal condition”, as those terms are defined in Section 4 4 of the Illinois Power of Attorney Act. If and when I am in any one of these states or conditions, I want life sustaining treatment to be withheld or discontinued.
  1. I want my life to be prolonged to the greatest extent possible in accordance with reasonable medical standards without regard to my condition, the chances I have for recovery or the cost of the procedures.  

Now there are only two choices on life sustaining treatment in the NEW power of attorney:

  1. The quality of my life is more important than the  length of my life. If I am unconscious and my attending physician believes, in accordance with reasonable medical standards, that I will not wake up or recover my ability to think, communicate with my family and friends, and experience my surroundings, I do not want treatments to prolong my life or delay my death, but I do want treatment or care to make me comfortable and to relieve me of pain.

  1. Staying alive is more important to me, no matter how sick I am, how much I am suffering, the cost of the    procedures, or how unlikely my chances for recovery are. I want my life to be prolonged to the greatest extent  possible in accordance with reasonable medical standards.

So my brilliant legal examination is this:  Choice 1 in the old form, selected by most clients and which said “leave it up to my agent” has been eliminated from the form. The new choice 2 has been reworded and is close to the old choice 2. Choice 3 remains the same as before for the most part.

In the new form, everyone will pick Choice 1 and no one will pick the second choice. The first choice now asks for a doctor’s opinion, but is that required or just advisory? Who knows.

I see no reason for all this wordsmithing.  There was no problem with the old poa. Thankfully, old power of attorneys do not have to be redone and are still valid. I have been offering the new one to clients and we will see how it goes.

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