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IL Estate Planning Blog

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What are the differences between a Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA), Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and a DNR?

What are the differences between a Living Will, Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA), Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) and DNR?

A Living Will informs others of your preferred medical treatment should you become permanently unconscious, terminally ill, or otherwise unable to make or communicate decisions regarding treatment. In conjunction with other estate planning tools, it can bring peace of mind and security while avoiding unnecessary expense and delay in the event of future incapacity. 

The law allows you to appoint someone you trust to decide about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can do this by using a Health Care Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy where you designate the person or persons to make such decisions on your behalf. You can allow your health care agent to decide about all health care or only about certain treatments. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow. Your agent can then ensure that health care professionals follow your wishes. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your agent's decisions as if they were your own.  The health care power functions appropriately as long as you have named the correct agent.

 

As per the Chicago end of life coalition (http://www.cecc.info/resource-links/physicians-order-for-life-sustaining-treatment-polst/):

POLST stands for “Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment”.  A POLST form is a signed medical order that travels with a person to assure that an individual’s treatment preferences at end-of-life are honored across all settings of care (hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility etc.).

POLST is designed for people who are seriously ill or have life-limiting illnesses. It is also appropriate for someone that will lose the ability to make health decisions for themselves, such as someone with dementia.

The POLST form:

  • Allows patients to create medical orders reflecting their treatment wishes at end-of-life.
  • Helps health care professionals know and honor the treatment wishes of their patients.
  • Allows emergency medical personnel to facilitate these wishes.

The POLST form is an advance directive in accordance with Illinois law. It is NOT intended to replace a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) form, but to be used in addition to this form. Therefore, this form is actually signed by your doctor and the patient.

 

As per the Illinois Department of Health, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) created a new Uniform Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Advance Directive form that offers Illinoisans more health care options. The DNR form is also designed for people who are seriously ill or have life-limiting illnesses.  An advance directive is a written statement you and your doctor prepare, about how you want your medical decisions to be made in the future if you are no longer able to make them for yourself. The new IDPH form adds a greater level of specificity when it comes to decisions about cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and life support measures including being intubated, placed on a ventilator and fed through a tube. The new IDPH advance directive form also meets requirements to nationally be considered a physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) form. Therefore, this form is actually signed by your doctor and the patient. It is NOT intended to replace a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA) form, but to be used in addition to this form.

 

Hence, these documents should only be signed in limited circumstances; whereas, Health Care Power of Attorney Forms should always be considered for individuals desiring to control medical decisions when they are not able to make these decisions themselves.


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With two offices in Oak Lawn and Oak Brook, Stephen M. Sutera assists clients throughout Cook County, DuPage County and Will County IL including Chicago, Hometown, Barrington, Burbank, Burr Ridge, Chicago Ridge, Darien, Downers Grove, Evergreen Park, Geneva, Worth, Bridgeview, Palos Park, Palos Hills, Palos Heights, Hickory Hills, Midlothian, Willow Springs, Oak Forest, Orland Park, La Grange, Brookfield, Berwyn, Tinley Park, Hinsdale, Villa Park, Clarendon Hills, Westchester, Westmont, Lombard, Elmhurst, Western Springs, Berkeley, Downers Grove, Fox Valley, Glen Ellyn, Willowbrook, Aurora, Addison, Lisle, Forest Park, Bensenville, Wheaton, River Forest, Itasca, Shorewood, Frankfort, Mokena, Naperville, Crest Hill, Homer Glen, New Lenox, Bollingbrook, Schaumburg, Channahon and Woodridge.



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