Health Care Surrogate Act – Illinois

Health Care Surrogate Act is designed to allow for the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, without intervention of a court, for patients who lack decisionmaking capacity, yet do not have any form of living will or a Power of Attorney for Health Care.  In enacting the Health Care Surrogate Act, the Illinois legislature recognized that all persons have the fundamental right to make decisions relating to their own medical treatment, including the right to forgo life-sustaining treatment, AND, that the lack of capacity should not prevent decisions to forgo end-of-life extraordinary life-sustaining treatment.  The legislature, through the Health Surrogate Act, intended to establish a process for private decision making.

The Health Care Surrogate Act applies not only to patients who lack capacity, but also those patients with a “Qualifying Condition,” which means a patient having one or more of the following conditions (certified by an attending physician and at least one other qualified physician, by writing in the patient’s chart):

  • Terminal Condition – an illness of injury for which there is no reasonable prospect of cure or recovery, death is imminent, and the application of life-sustaining treatment would only prolong death;

 

  • Permanent unconsciousness – a condition that, to a high degree of medical certainity, will last permanently without improvement; without thought, sensation, purposeful action, social interaction or awareness of self and environment, and for which initiating or continuing life-sustaining treatment would provide minimal medical benefit;

 

  • Incurable or Irreversible condition – an illness or injury for which there is no reasonable prospect of cure or recovery; that ultimately will cause the patient’s death even if life-sustaining treatment is initiated or continued;  that imposes severe pain or an inhuman burden on the patient; and  for which initiating or continuing life-sustaining treatment would provide minimal medical benefit.

Ideally, decisions concerning life-sustaining treatment refusals should be made by the patient – but, if the patient lacks capacity, a surrogate decision maker, in consultation with the patient’s attending physician, can refuse to initiate or continue life-sustaining treatment.

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