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Lombard estate planning attorneysIt is a fact that many avoid thinking about, but unexpected illnesses and accidents happen to people every day. A living will is a type of advance medical directive that identifies the types of medical care you do and do not want if you cannot speak for yourself due to a major illness or injury. Through a living will, you decide in advance whether you want treatments such as dialysis, artificial ventilation, or a feeding tube to be used if you are incapacitated. Not only does a living will put you in charge of your future medical care, it also saves your loved ones the burdensome task of making important medical decisions on your behalf. If you are considering using a living will to specify your future medical wishes, you may be wondering, “When does a living will take effect?”

Determining When a Person Is Unable to Articulate Medical Wishes

A living will is used when a person has a terminal condition and is unable to express his or her wishes about death-delaying procedures. A terminal condition is typically defined as a medical condition that is incurable and will result in imminent death. The Illinois Living Will Act regulates the rules regarding living wills. In a living will, you will give a declaration explaining directions for medical care should you be unable to express these directions yourself. The declaration reads in part, “In the absence of my ability to give directions...it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored… as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical treatment.”

A living will goes into effect when your physician decides that you can no longer express your own healthcare decisions and certifies this in writing. To make this determination, doctors typically consider whether the patient can:

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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyThe Illinois Living Will Act states that every citizen has the basic right to control decisions about his or her health care. Unfortunately, however, there may come a point in a person’s life where he or she is not able to make such decisions on the spot. Advance medical directives, including living wills, can be used to document a person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical care in certain situations, removing the burden of making such decisions from family members and loved ones.

Those who advocate for living wills say that such instruments are crucial in protecting a patient’s rights. Living wills, in particular, address which types of death-delaying procedures the patient wishes to receive—or not receive—if he or she is ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and is unable to communicate his or her wishes at the time. A terminal condition is one that is incurable and will ultimately result in the patient’s death. Death delaying procedures are defined as treatments that will only serve to postpone the moment of death and commonly include:

  • Assisted ventilation and the application of artificial respirators;
  • Intravenous medication and nutrition;
  • Whole blood transfusions; and
  • Artificial kidney treatments, including dialysis.

A living will cannot direct medical personnel to withhold food or water to allow death to occur from starvation or dehydration.

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