Terminal Illness and the Living Will?

By Rick Rick Law, Senior Advocate and Estate Planning Lawyer at Law Elder Law in Chicago, IL.

An important fact to keep in mind when looking at the statutory health-care power of attorney (or the living will) is that the terms and concepts that are used are defined in a manner that would surprise most of us.

For example, in Illinois the definition of terminal illness is quite detailed, yet does not apply to many issues with dementia that the average person might assume would fall under the definition of terminal.

However, we already know that most doctors are probably not going to say that a person with Alzheimer’s is terminal—even if that person cannot swallow and requires a feeding tube to stay alive.

When most people hear that “death is imminent,” they probably think that death is days or perhaps a week or two away. Not too many people would consider six months to be imminent.

One becomes qualified for hospice if death is imminent, meaning that the person will die within the next six months. “Life-sustaining treatment” is defined as any medical treatment, procedure, or intervention that in the judgment of the attending physician, when applied to a patient with a qualifying condition, would not be effective to remove the qualifying condition or would serve only to prolong the dying process.

Those procedures can include, but are not limited to, assisted ventilation, renal dialysis, surgical procedures, blood transfusions, and the administration of drugs, antibiotics, and artificial nutrition and hydration.

Qualifying conditions are the conditions that trigger a living will to come into effect. They typically trigger a doctor to talk to a family with a health-care power of attorney about making an end-of-life decision or cause an attending physician to recommend no further life treatment or to make a referral to hospice.

If you’re ready to start getting your estate in order and secure your assets for the “worst-case” scenario, please give our office a call at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free.  We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family.  Call now.


Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees.

Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future.  Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care. 


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