Illinois nun’s near-arrest leads to law change on power of attorney

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CHICAGO (CBS) – An Illinois nun was almost taken to jail while trying to protect a dying friend.

The near-arrest was over a dispute about her last wishes. CBS 2’s Lauren Victory explained how a new law could help people avoid what she experienced.

Sister Maureen Clancy and Sister Joan McGovern spent years living and working together. That sacred bond led to a special role as McGovern grew sick and made a request.

"’I am ready to meet my God and I just don’t ever want to return to the hospital,’" Clancy said, recapping McGovern’s wishes.

With an official "power of attorney for health care" form, Clancy became McGovern’s medical decision maker.

"It is an honor to represent a person when they are unable to represent themselves," Clancy said.

The time came on McGovern’s 90th birthday at her Homer Glen nursing home.

"I stayed with her through that night and the sisters here gathered in silent prayer with her as she transitioned to the next life," Clancy said.

That peaceful goodbye took a turn when first responders arrived and wanted to start CPR. Clancy objected but her power of attorney documents weren’t handy.

"’Where is your paperwork?’" Clancy recalled being asked. "’Without your paperwork you are nothing.’"

The matter escalated in the room as the retired nun argued wit the medics about her friend’s dying wishes.

"I blocked the body so they could not start CPR and he said, ‘You will be arrested,’" Clancy said.

Clancy did not leave in handcuffs because someone scrambled to find the physical papers needed.

To prevent others from the same stress, she contacted lawmakers.

"This is an incredible example of the difference that one person can make," said State Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz.

Gong-Gershowitz helped pass a modernized power of attorney bill.

"What this new legislation does is enable somebody to allow their power of attorney to be shown on a digital device," she said.

Clancy’s prayers were answered, but she is also hoping word gets out.

"I give permission to my agent to store this electronically," Clancy said. "That has to be written in there."

The updated rules go into effect on Jan. 1.

The Illinois Department of Public Health is supposed to update its website with the new "power of attorney for healthcare" form. CBS 2 asked and were told that’s a work in progress.

For now, contact your lawyer with any questions.

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December 27, 2022 at 06:13PM

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