The Healthcare Power of Attorney: What You to Know

Few of us have not heard the term medical power of attorney.  These documents are usually brought up by hospital staff when a loved one or we are about to undergo a medical procedure.  While most people are reticent to consider what may go wrong while they are not able to make decisions, these directives are critical to medical personnel knowing your wishes should you not be able to communicate them. Having a medical power of attorney will provide certainty to you and your loved ones so that medical decisions can be made according to your choices.

What is a  Medical Power of Attorney?

A Medical Power of Attorney which is also known as Patient Advocate Designation or a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a legal document which gives a designated person the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to so.  In Michigan, the designated person is called a patient advocate and is designated by the person creating the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare. Michigan law requires that certain language appears in these types of documents and that specific processes be followed.  It is crucial that the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare strictly adhere to the law because if the document does not meet the requirements, it will not be given effect.

The Patient Advocate

The patient advocate will be in a position of trust to make your serious medical decisions so it will be important to take your time in selecting this person.  They do not have to be a relative.  It is important to consider selecting at least one alternative patient advocate to be in place if your original patient advocate cannot perform their duties.  If you elect to have more than one patient advocate, you will need to be certain that your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare makes clear how decisions are to be reached if the advocates cannot agree or cannot be reached when a decision must be made.  Otherwise, medical personnel will not be able to make a decision when there is only one advocate available or if there is a difference of opinion between the advocates.

Michigan law requires that before a patient advocate can make decisions for you, either your physician or one that is appointed examine you and officially conclude that you are unable to make your own medical decisions.  This inquiry can arise under circumstances where you are unconscious and where it may appear your mental health is no longer in a state of sound decision-making.

The Alternative

If you do not have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in place and become incapacitated, the only alternative is for the court to become involved to appoint your legal guardian.  It is not guaranteed that the guardian will be a person you would choose to serve in this capacity. Further, if you are determined to be incapacitated by a court and then recover, you must return to court to prove that you should be your own guardian.

A Durable Power of Attorney is a valuable tool which serves to ensure that the medical decisions made on a person’s behalf are the same ones they would choose if they were able. Our office has attorneys who are experienced and can advise you on creating an effective Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare which will honor your wishes. Please contact us if we may be of assistance. 

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