The problem with traumatic injuries, accidents and medical emergencies is that they always seem to come unexpectedly. But there are steps that everyone can take to improve the odds that you can exert some element of control over future events, even in the worst of circumstances.
To that end, the State of Illinois has adopted a new Health Care Power of Attorney document that promises to be a boon to anyone seeking to manage their own fate in the event of a personal health crisis or accident. Technically known as an “advance directive”, the HCPOA goes into effect when a traumatic event renders you unable to make decisions on your own behalf. Similar to (but not the same as) a Living Will, the HCPOA provides legally binding emergency guidelines for your family or another designated representative.
A key component of the process is the selection of your trusted health care agent, as they may well become the most important person in your life should your life be on the line. The objective of the form is to communicate your emergency medical treatment parameters to your HCPOA-appointed agent, but the law nevertheless allows this individual to consent to or refuse medical interventions. They are also authorized to withdraw treatment if they understand that course to be consistent with your wishes.
Depending on how you specify your preferences, your agent may also be required to speak with physicians or hospital staff about your condition. They may be permitted to view medical records, approve tests and treatments and choose where you receive care.
By its nature, an HCPOA is deployed in situations that are fraught with tension and anxiety. Whether they are a family member or otherwise, be sure to consider your appointed agent’s character and even toughness should they find themselves confronted with differences of opinion.
No one wants to confront the possibility of being struck down by a traumatic disease or injury, but the benefits of anticipating such a possibility in advance far outweigh the time and trouble required to fill out the form. High among the benefits of filing the HCPOA is to preclude anxiety on the part of your family and friends caused by the necessity to second guess your preferences. There is also value in minimizing conflict among family members, especially if some hold strong religious or moral beliefs regarding life support.
The law permits you to use the official HCPOA form or one of your own, as long as it conforms to State of Illinois’ legal requirements. Go to our Web Site for more information and the forms.