Advance Directives for Health Care

I saw an ad in a recent bulletin (January 8, 2017) about a booklet published by the Catholic Conference of Illinois which focuses on advance directives. What is that all about?

The Illinois Bishops Conference recently released updated information about designating a Power of Attorney for Health Care. A Power of Attorney for Health Care is an individual that one can appoint in order to make health care decisions in the event that one is not able to make those decisions for oneself. The document is not about giving another person power to make decisions while you are able to do so (unless you stipulate that). Rather, it is about giving you power to stipulate how you would like to be treated in the event that you are not able to make those decisions yourself due to some incapacitation. You can appoint the person that you trust, and you can provide general instructions about how you would like to be cared for. Therefore, the document is about empowering you. It is not about taking power away. Also, it should be noted that this is not the same as a Power of Attorney for finances. A Power of Attorney for Health Care only applies to health care decisions.

What makes the booklet that was recently published by the Catholic Conference of Illinois unique is that it provides a simple way for you to stipulate that you would like to be cared for in accordance with Catholic ethics. The document allows you to easily limit how your Power of Attorney for Health Care may act in order to ensure that he/she acts in accordance with Catholic teaching. This can take some of the burden off of loved ones because they know your wishes.

How does one complete the document? You can find the booklet here:

POA Booklet

The first pages provide some background information, and the legal document itself begins on Page 14. Instructions are provided throughout the document. You do not need a lawyer in order to complete a Power of Attorney for Health Care (though you might like to consult one). However, someone does need to sign the document as a witness. The witness cannot be a relative or one of your health care providers. It could be a neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc.

Once you have completed the document, a copy should be given to the person that you have designated as your Power of Attorney for Health Care. You should also provide a copy to your doctor’s office, your lawyer, and bring a copy with you if you ever need to go to the hospital.

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Stephen Lilly

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