There are two common powers of attorney (POA): for property or for health care. This article will explain POA for health care.

The POA for health care act, and the suggested legal form, is available on the internet, or through the laws of Illinois, officially called Illinois Compiled Statutes (ILCS) at 755 ILCS 45/4.

The person who is granting POA is known as the “principal.” The person who receives the POA powers is known as the “agent.” The principal grants the agent certain powers, but the agent is not legally bound to accept the responsibility. If the agent acts as an agent under a POA document, he is bound to act in the best interests of the principal.

POA for health care, in essence gives you the right to appoint an agent to make the final decision to terminate health care that is intended to extend your life when your diagnosis is terminal, or when your quality of life has diminished to the point that you only survive with life sustaining medical assistance. Under these circumstances, if you are unable to direct your caregivers to terminate your life support, and you have exercised a power of attorney for health care, your agent can make this decision for you.

To put it bluntly, if you are incapacitated, and unable to make your wishes known, and you have a family member or friend you trust to make such decisions, you can delegate an agent to end your life by terminating medical treatment. That agent has the power to “pull the plug,” in the words of the statute, “if … the burdens of the treatment outweigh the expected benefits.”
If you have an estate (your property, money, and investments) they can be depleted by paying medical providers to keep you alive, even if there is no chance of reviving you. POA for health care permits you to designate a guardian who can follow your wishes to see that your estate goes to your heirs, rather than to medical providers. You can name a successor agent, in case your primary agent passes away before you. You must have one witness to your signing, and you can have your agent sign so he acknowledges his appointment as your agent, and so that health care providers will have a sample signature to compare it to in the future to avoid forgeries.

Your agent cannot be anyone providing you healthcare. You must have a witness sign the POA and that witness cannot be: your attending physician; a relative of the physician; the owner or operator of a health care agency where you reside; a parent, sibling, descendant, or spouse of a parent sibling or descendant of the principal or agent. You can revoke or amend the POA at any time. You or your agent should make the POA a part of the medical file of any health care provider attending to you. Your agent will have the right to examine your health care records. If you so authorize it, a POA can permit organ donations, or authorize an autopsy after your passing. The POA will have no termination date, unless you designate one. There are criminal penalties for anyone who alters or falsifies your POA.

It would be advisable for you to consult an attorney to assist you in preparing your POA. If you choose to file a POA for health care, a copy of Illinois’ “Short Form Power of Attorney for Health Care” is available from your local library, or on the internet in Illinois’ Codified Statutes at 755 ILCS 45/4-10 (b). Several sites are available on the internet to get a copy of the form by searching for “IL power of attorney for health.”

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