Recording Your Wishes
Much attention has been cast on the importance of having medical care advance directives. Following are some of the most common questions about advance directives.
What is an advance directive?
Advance directives outline, in advance, your wishes regarding the medical treatment you’d want in a medical emergency, as well as the name of the person you’d choose to make health care decisions if you could no longer speak for yourself. Three types of advance directives include: a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney, and a Declaration for Mental Health treatment. These documents can guide your loved ones and doctor if you are unable to make decisions about your medical care.
What is a Living Will?
This is a written declaration that instructs the physician to withhold or withdraw death delaying procedures when a patient has a terminal condition and is unable to participate in health care decisions.
What is a Declaration for Mental Health Treatment?
This document allows a patient to specify consent or refusal to consent to electroconvulsive treatment (ECT), psychotropic medications, and short-term admission to a mental health facility. It also allows a patient to appoint an attorney-in-fact to make decision regarding mental health treatment.
What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
Since it would be difficult to predict all the treatment decisions you might face, you should choose someone you trust to speak on your behalf. This document let’s you name another person (referred to as your power of attorney, agent or proxy) to make medical decisions for you if you cannot state your wishes yourself. You may want to consider listing an alternate in the event that something happens to your agent.
Where can I get these documents?
You may download and print a copy of the Living Will and Power of Attorney or stop by MDH Admitting/Registration or the Advocacy Services office to pick up both forms. These documents are free of charge.
When should I get an advance directive?
Anyone 18 years of age or older may fill out an advance directive. Even if you are in good health, you might want to consider writing an advance directive, as the best time to complete them are before they are necessary. If you have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed. If you do not designate an agent, that responsibility will be determined based on Illinois state law via the Health Care Surrogate Act.
Who should have a copy of my advance directive?
You should give a copy to your power of attorney, your family, the hospital, and your physician(s). If you travel, take a copy of your advance directive with you and let someone know where it is. It is also a good idea to verbally communicate your wishes to loved ones.
Can I change my advance directive?
Yes, a competent person may change or cancel their advance directive. Remember to inform your physician, family, and your power of attorney. Also notify the hospital if your advance directive is on file. It’s a good idea to review your directive often to be sure it still reflects your wishes.
Where can I go for more information?
MDH Advocacy Services staff will be glad to answer your questions concerning advance directives. They may be reached by calling (309) 836-1636 or (309) 833-4101 and ask the operator to page a representative from the department.
You may also visit the following websites for additional information: