When Nurses Help Residents End Their Lives in Illinois Nursing Homes
Illinois does not currently enforce state dignity laws which make it possible for terminally ill patients to end suffering through assisted suicide.
What Are Dignity Laws?
In recent years, many states have adopted “dignity laws” which refer to death with dignity or assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Dignity laws address medical aids that are used in physician-assisted deaths for patients who are suffering from some type of terminal illness. As of April 2021, dignity laws have been adopted in 11 states including California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
Currently, Illinois does not legally recognize dignity laws, so physician-assisted suicide in the state is illegal. Dignity laws, often referred to as “assisted suicide” or “right to die” initiatives, allow terminally ill patients to die through prescribed medications administered by licensed physicians. Laws state that patients must be diagnosed as terminally ill with 6 months or less to live, and must voluntarily request physician-assisted euthanasia. While nurses can participate in certain types of end-of-life care, dignity law statutes prohibit them from administering euthanasia medications.
While Illinois does not recognize dignity laws, Illinois does allow four types of advance directives for all types of patients. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help nursing home patients with advance directives including: (1) a power of attorney, (2) a living will, (3) a mental health declaration, and (4) do-not-resuscitate orders. Under federal laws, all providers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs are required to furnish patients with information on advance directives. Qualified providers include:
- Urgent care facilities
- Nursing home facilities
- Home health care services
- Health maintenance organizations
- Hospice services
An advance directive is a written statement that expresses a patient’s wishes on how to handle medical decisions if the patient is unable to make them. Illinois law requires that patients must be given advance directive information and forms upon admission to a facility, or when the provision of medical care or treatment begins. Patients are urged to discuss advance directives with their family members, as well as their nursing home abuse lawyer who can address complex or confusing legal questions that arise.
If patients do not have advance directives and can not make health care decisions for themselves, Illinois laws allow for the appointment of a health care surrogate. A Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer can draw up papers naming a surrogate to make medical decisions.