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End-of-Life Care and Your Rights in Illinois

Published on May 4, 2021 by Thomas Law Offices.

Nursing Home Lawyer

As someone nears the end of their life—whether it be sudden or an expected decline—decisions will need to be made about allowable medical care, the person’s estate, and what their wishes are in terms of funeral services. While it’s normal for family members not to want to have those discussions, it’s imperative to have a plan in place so your loved one can be at peace with what’s to come.

Every state has its own laws regarding end-of-life care, what’s allowed, what’s not allowed, and how and when medical treatment can be forgone. It’s important to understand your loved one’s rights when it comes to end-of-life planning. If their rights are disregarded at any point, the person or entity responsible should be held accountable.

End-of-life Planning in Illinois

Nearly a quarter of Americans face end-of-life medical questions without the capacity to decide what should happen. When that’s the case, families with no written guidelines or past conversations have nothing to fall back on.

When a person is aware they are nearing the end of their life and is cognitively aware enough to make informed decisions for themselves, difficult questions need to be asked, so family members and medical providers know how to proceed when it comes to providing CPR, a ventilator, artificial nutrition and hydration, and more.

Legal documents can be drawn up, so families have everything they need in writing for when their loved one passes. There will be no confusion or questions. Instead, the surviving family members can have things taken care of and mourn and grieve together.

Hospice and Palliative Care

Hospice and palliative care are available to individuals with terminal illnesses. End-of-life care teams are made up of a medical director, registered nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains, grief support, volunteers, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

Hospice provides medical care for terminally ill patients who have a prognosis of six months or less to live. Hospice also provides support to the patient’s family before and after death. Care can be provided anywhere—including a hospital, nursing home, assisted or supportive living community, home, or hospice house. The overall goal of hospice is to shift care from curative to maintaining the highest possible comfort level.

Palliative care available at any stage of a serious illness—terminal or otherwise. The focus of palliative care is to assess and manage pain and other systems, assess and support caregiver needs, and coordinate care. The physical, functional, psychological, practical, and spiritual consequences of living with a serious illness are addressed.

Death With Dignity and Euthanasia Statutes

Death with dignity laws make it possible for terminally ill patients to use prescribed medication to end their lives. Illinois is not currently considering adopting a death with dignity law, but there are citizen groups actively trying to legalize aid in dying.

Per Illinois statutes 755 ILCS 35/9 and 45/4-8e, mercy killings or any deliberate acts or omission to end life other than to permit the natural dying process is not allowed. However, a qualified patient does have the right to withhold medication or withdrawal from treatments that delay the dying process.

Advance Directives in Illinois

Any adult has the right to establish an advance directive that dictates the care they receive in the future under emergency or end-of-life circumstances. This can be done at any time, regardless of age, medical history, marital status, etc. In Illinois, the state allows residents to make four types of advance directives:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney. This advance directive lets you choose someone to make health care decisions for you in the future if you are not able to do so yourself.
  • Living Will. A living will informs medical professionals whether you want death-delaying procedures used if you have a terminal condition and cannot state your wishes. A living will only applies if you have a terminal condition.
  • Mental Health Treatment Preference Declaration. Suppose a patient has a mental illness and is unable to make decisions for themselves. In that case, a mental health treatment preference declaration lets the patient say if they want to receive electroconvulsive treatment or psychotropic medications.
  • Do-Not-Resuscitate/Practitioner Order For Life-Sustaining Treatment. A DNR/POLST is an advanced directive that says cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) cannot be used if your heart or breathing stops.

If you do not have any advance directives in place and cannot make decisions for yourself, Illinois requires two doctors to certify that you cannot make those decisions, and a health care surrogate can be chosen for you. Health care surrogates are typically guardians, spouses, adult children, parents, adult siblings, adult grandchildren, close friends, or guardians of the estate.

Contact Thomas Law Offices

Whether your loved one is in a nursing home, in a hospice unit, or at home, their rights must be upheld—especially when it comes to end-of-life care. It’s hard enough to deal with losing a loved one. You don’t need to face legal issues when you should be spending time with your family.

If you are concerned about your loved one’s rights or believe their rights have been violated, our nursing home abuse lawyers in Chicago are here for you even if they have already passed away. Contact us today for more information.

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Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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