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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article will cover the frequently asked questions relating to medical powers of attorney in Illinois. To learn more about financial powers of attorney, check out our article Illinois Powers Of Attorney FAQ | Financial Powers Of Attorney.

What is medical power of attorney?

A medical power of attorney is a legal agreement between you (the principal) and one or more other individuals (the representative), giving them the authority to make medical decisions in your absence or if you are incapacitated.

What health care decisions are covered under a medical power of attorney cover?

Any decision that you deem appropriate. You can give your medical power of attorney complete control over any health care decision, or you can list specific situations, such as whether to keep you on life support if there is no indication your health will improve. The authority of your representative can extend to giving, withholding, or withdrawing informed consent. Durable medical power of attorney with no limitations also covers psychiatric care, whether you should be admitted to a nursing home, receive surgery, be treated at home, donate your organs, etc.

How is medical power of attorney different from a living will?

A living will lists directives that you made yourself. Whereas medical power of attorney gives authority to another person to make those decisions for you. The primary difference is that in the living will, you are saying, “Right here, right now, I am making the decision that I never want to be put on life support.” You can have both a living will and a durable medical power of attorney. In most cases, if your directions in the living will are evident on a particular medical issue, it will supersede the decision of your power of attorney.

Who decides if I am unable to make medical decisions myself?

A physician, psychologist, or advanced nurse practitioner will evaluate your ability to:

  • Understand, process, and appreciate the nature and potential ramifications of a health care decision;
  • Make an informed choice based on the alternatives presented; and
  • Communicate your response in a way that others can understand and is unambiguous (you can give your answer verbally, write it down, or nod your head).

The physician evaluating your mental capacity will write a report regarding your response and give detailed reasoning as to why he or she believes you are not fit to make your own decisions. The doctor cannot base this decision merely on your age or because you have a mental illness. The three-step process described above must be completed for each medical decision or procedure.

Does appointing a medical power of attorney relinquish my right to make medical decisions?

No. As long as you are mentally capable of making your own decisions, the person named as your medical power of attorney has no authority until you become incapacitated.

Can I have multiple medical power of attorneys?

Yes, you can name a back-up representative who will make the decision if the primary representative also becomes incapacitated, is deemed mentally unfit, or refuses to make a decision. You can also name two representatives who have to agree on a medical decision before taking action.

How can I make sure my medical power of attorney would make the same decision as I?

The best way to ensure your representative follows your wishes is to write it down. You can include directions in the medical PoA agreement or create a separate document for your representative to reference. This document’s legality would likely be called into question if your representative makes a decision in contrast to your wishes, so if you have any concerns about your representative, you should discuss them with your attorney.

Who should I name as my medical power of attorney?

Choosing a medical power of attorney can be a difficult decision for some people. This person may have to make a decision that could save or end your life. Naming a family member is not always the right choice as they may be unable to follow your wishes if the emotional toll is too severe. You should choose someone that you trust to make the same decision you would in a given situation.

Can I just appoint my doctor as my medical power of attorney?

No, Illinois law prohibits you from appointing your physician your medical power of attorney. Generally, most individuals who own, operate, or work for a health care establishment cannot be selected as a medical power of attorney, regardless of their relationship to you. If you’re unsure, speak with your attorney.

Is my medical power of attorney responsible for paying my bills?

No, a medical PoA is only responsible for the medical decisions you give them authority over. Your financial PoA should handle anything that involves money. Your medical PoA and financial PoA can be the same person.

What happens if I have a medical PoA appointed but then need a guardian?

In most cases, if someone already appointed a medical power of attorney and then must have a guardian appointed by the court at a later date, the court will likely consider the medical power of attorney as the first option for guardian.

Can I change or terminate my medical power of attorney?

Yes, as long as you have the mental and physical capacity to do so, you can revoke your medical power of attorney at any time. The revocation will not be effective until your physician receives it. You can communicate to another person that you would like the revocation written up and signed and that you would like the medical power of attorney destroyed.

What happens to my medical power of attorney if I get divorced?

If your spouse was named as your medical power of attorney or successor, it will be automatically revoked upon the finalization of your divorce. You will need to draft and sign a new medical power of attorney.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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