FILE - Gov. J.B. Pritzker

Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks at an event on Thursday, July 22, 2021. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) – 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.

A POLST 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 POLST form is similar to a do-not-resuscitate order, Ellen Byrne of the Illinois Hospice and Palliative Care Organization said that 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 POLST form due to the struggle of having to find a witness. State Rep. David Friess, R-Red Bud, said that having a witness present is  important to ensure that patient is making the right choice 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 a POLST form. Ellen Byrne said that if a patient is not competent to sign a POLST form, then 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, 2022.

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