When preparing to undergo a medical procedure, there are usually a host of documents you will sign.  Many of these documents pertain to your estate or permission for the hospital to release or have certain types of information.  Whether you are facing a surgical procedure or are in perfect health, one document that should be part of your life plan is a Living Will.  While Michigan law does not specifically provide for a Living Will (more on that below), it is important to understand what a Living Will is and how it works.

A Living Will or Advance Directive is not a type of will which dictates where your property will go in the event of your death.  A Living Will is a document which states precisely what you want you’re treating physicians to do if something happens where you are unable to communicate your preferences due to being ill or unconscious.  This kind of document typically pertains to situations where you are incapacitated following a medical incident such as car accident trauma, a coma or stroke.  They may give direction about your preferences regarding life-saving interventions such as life support or feeding tubes.  These documents go into effect after a doctor examines you and determines that you are in a state as to not be able to communicate your wishes about your healthcare.

A Living Will does not allow you to designate someone to make decisions for you.  In Michigan, a Patient Advocate Designation (sometimes called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care) allows a person to name someone in the role of a patient advocate who can make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.  This designation can be made before your incapacitation and will go into effect if you do become incapacitated. A patient advocate can make decisions for you in the event of both permanent and temporary incapacity.

When executed correctly, a Patient Advocate Designation is legally binding document.  In contrast, a Living Will may not be legally binding on health care providers as there is not a current law which gives these document effect.  However, having a Living Will is still prudent as it provides guidance and directions about what you want to happen with your healthcare.  Ideally, having both a Patient Advocate Designation and a Living Will is the best course of action as it will give your patient advocate guidance in making decisions on your behalf.  Many times we combine a Patient Advocate Designation (who’s in charge?) and a Living Will (what do you want that person in charge to do to carry out your wishes?).

It is essential to have the right plan ready if you cannot make your own medical decisions.  By taking the time to set out what you want for your health care in a Living Will you are taking necessary steps towards ensuring your wishes are honored.

Our office has experience in providing medical decision-making planning advice and can help you understand your options.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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