Michigan Health Care Directives
How do I make my Michigan Patient Advocate Designation legal?
In Michigan, the law requires that you sign your designation in the presence of two witnesses. These witnesses cannot be:
• your spouse, parent, child, grandchild, or sibling,
• a person who stands to inherit from your estate,
• your physician or patient advocate,
• an employee of your life or health insurance provider,
• an employee of a health care or mental health care facility where you are being treated, or
• an employee of a home for the aged, if you are a patient in that facility.
In Michigan, your patient advocate designation form will be valid after you and your witnesses sign it. However, your patient advocate and alternate (if any) must receive a copy of your document and date and sign an acceptance of his or her responsibilities before making any decisions on your behalf. An acceptance form is included as pages 5 and 6 of the Michigan Advance Directive, in the event you want to obtain your advocate’s acceptance now.
The Michigan Patient Advocate Designation lets you name someone to make decisions about your medical care — including decisions about life support, mental health treatment and anatomical gifts — if you can no longer speak for yourself. The patient advocate designation is especially useful because it appoints someone to speak for you any time you are unable to make your own health care treatment decisions, not only at the end of life.
Your patient advocate’s powers go into effect when your doctor determines that you are no longer able to make or communicate your health care decisions.
Divorce and Patient Advocates
The various areas of law often intersect in ways you wouldn’t imagine. Visualize this scenario, you filed for divorce from your spouse of seven years. While the case is still pending you are admitted to the hospital for surgery. Now imagine something goes wrong during surgery and the hospital contacts your spouse, who is not yet your ex-spouse, to ask how they should proceed or to approve a possibly risky surgical procedure. Would you want your ex-husband or wife making medically decisions on your behalf? This may sound like a nightmare ripped from the daytime television shows, but this exact situation has crossed my desk.
No one should ever step foot into a hospital or plan a surgical procedure without first seeking out an experienced probate attorney to assist in drafting a patient advocate designation. Not all trips to the hospital are planned, meaning the longer you wait the great the risk you will be unprepared or even unable to choose who should make dire medical decisions on your behalf. Those who are thinking about filing, have just filed, or just completed a divorce need to plan ahead and make sure they designate the right person to make medical decisions for them.
Types of Advance Directives
Michigan has two kinds of Advance Directives. One is the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOA-HC), which can be used in both inpatient and ambulatory care settings within the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers. The other is a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Declaration, which is for non-hospital settings. If either of these legal documents is missing certain elements, they may not be valid; however, the information in them could be used to show a patient’s intent or wishes regarding treatment choices.
A “living will” is not recognized as a legally binding Advance Directive in Michigan. However, a living will is sometimes combined with a valid Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to help the Patient Advocate named in the DPOA-HC to understand the patient’s treatment choices.
Who You Can Appoint
In Michigan, your patient advocate is the person you appoint to make decisions about your health care if you become unable to make those decisions yourself. Your patient advocate may be a family member or a close friend whom you trust to make serious decisions. The person you name as your patient advocate should clearly understand your wishes and be willing to accept the responsibility of making health care decisions for you.
You can appoint a second person as your alternate patient advocate. The alternate will step in if the first person you name as a patient advocate is unable, unwilling, or unavailable to act for you.