Pritzker signs bill removing witness requirement for end-of-life care

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed Senate Bill 109, a law that removes the requirement for a witness for terminal patients to sign an end-of-life care form called a physician orders for life-sustaining treatment form.

The form is intended for a person dealing with a life-threatening illness. It is a signed medical order reflecting a person’s wishes that go with the person across settings of care that must be honored by all healthcare providers.

While the form is similar to a do-not-resuscitate order, Ellen Byrne of the Illinois Hospice and Palliative Care Organization said this form is only for patients with serious medical issues.

"This is only appropriate for people who have serious illnesses," Byrne said. "You can only sign the POLST form if there is a high risk that that person might experience a serious medical crisis."

Forty-eight other states do not require a witness signature on the form because of the difficulty finding a witness. State Rep. David Friess said having a witness present is  important to ensure patients are making the right choices regarding their care.

"I believe at times like that in a person’s life, it is probably consoling to have someone alongside them, signing with them to show that they are making the right decision," he said.

Friess also brought up the question of a patient’s state of mind when signing the form. Ellen Byrne said if a patient is not competent to sign the form, other measures will be taken to ensure the right choice is made.

"The law says that if a patient is not competent to make decisions, then there will be a more rigorous process to complete the POLST form or to make any decisions regarding life-saving treatment," she said.

The legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1.


September 1, 2021 at 06:57AM

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