Understanding Living Wills and Healthcare Directives in Michigan
Residents of Michigan who wish to ensure that their healthcare preferences are honored in the event they are incapacitated can do so through a living will or healthcare directive. A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that outlines your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life. In Michigan, while there is no statute governing living wills, the state recognizes the value of these directives through case law.
A healthcare directive allows individuals to appoint a patient advocate, who makes medical decisions on their behalf when they are unable to do so themselves. This document is officially referred to in Michigan as a 'Designation of Patient Advocate' form.
Establishing a Designation of Patient Advocate in Michigan
To establish a Designation of Patient Advocate, follow these steps:
- Choose Your Patient Advocate: Select a trusted individual who understands your healthcare preferences and is willing to act on your behalf. This person should be at least 18 years old and mentally competent.
- Fill Out the Form: Complete the Designation of Patient Advocate form. This form must include your patient advocate's duties, powers, and limitations regarding your care, custody, and medical or mental health treatment.
- Comply with Legal Requirements: The form must be signed by you and two witnesses or notarized in Michigan. Witnesses cannot be the patient advocate, relative, potential heir, or directly involved with your healthcare providers.
- Discuss Your Wishes: Have a frank conversation with your patient advocate about your health care preferences, including life-sustaining treatments and end-of-life care.
- Distribute Copies: Provide copies to your patient advocate, family members, and healthcare providers to ensure everyone is aware of your wishes.
The Role of Historical Cases in Michigan's Healthcare Directives
In the absence of a specific statute for living wills in Michigan, historical cases such as In re Martin, which dealt with the withdrawal of life support for an incapacitated patient without a living will, have highlighted the need for clear directives. This case underlined the importance of having an appointed patient advocate who can make decisions aligned with the incapacitated individual's desires.
To further illustrate, consider the scenario where someone without a healthcare directive suffers from an irreversible condition that renders them unable to communicate. Without clear instructions or an appointed advocate, family members may endure stressful disputes or court interventions to determine care decisions. Establishing a healthcare directive beforehand eliminates ambiguity and ensures that one's healthcare choices are respected.
Making healthcare decisions for when you can't do so yourself is an important step in maintaining control over your medical care. In Michigan, setting up a Designation of Patient Advocate is crucial in ensuring that your health care preferences are upheld. By taking the initiative to establish clear directives and appointing a patient advocate now, you can provide peace of mind to both yourself and your loved ones.