Living Wills

In Illinois, people have the fundamental right to control decisions relating to their medical care. This includes the right to control those decisions even after they become incapacitated. Recognizing this right, the Illinois legislature has passed the Illinois Living Will Act (755 ILCS 35/1 et seq.) which recognizes the right of people to make written instructions concerning their medical care, including the decision to have death delaying treatment withheld or withdrawn.

Adults and emancipated minors who are of sound mind may execute a declaration directing that if they are suffering from a terminal illness death delaying measures shall not be used to prolong their life. The declaration must be signed and witnessed by two persons 18 years of age or older.

Once it’s executed, you should provide a copy of the declaration to your doctor so that it becomes part of your medical record. You should also determine whether your physician is willing to comply with the provisions of the living will. Your doctor must advise you whether or not he intends to comply. If not, you should have your medical records transferred to a doctor who is willing to follow your wishes. It is your responsibility to initiate this transfer.

You have the right to revoke your living will at any time, whether or not you are of sound mind. The revocation may be made by destroying the declaration or by a written or oral revocation which clearly expresses your intent to revoke the original declaration. An oral or written revocation must be made in the presence of two persons 18 years of age or over. Your wish to revoke should be memorialized in writing and signed and dated by the witnesses.

Living wills executed in other states which comply with that state’s laws or the provisions of Illinois’ Living Will Act are recognized in Illinois.