As the world has learned through the past two years of the global Covid-19 pandemic, medical emergencies are not reserved for the sick, disabled, and aged, although the likelihood can increase in each of those categories. However, in light of the life-changing experience of the pandemic, which is still in our midst, this begs the question: in case of emergency, are your medical decisions in order?
An answer to that question may depend on whether you have an advanced directive in place. An advance directive is a written, legal document in which you specify the type of medical care you want or who you want to make decisions for you, should you lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself. It is a common tool used in estate planning, along with documents that secure final wishes, such as wills and trusts. In Michigan, there are three types of advanced directives: a durable power of attorney for healthcare, a living will, and a do-not-resuscitate order.
A durable power of attorney for healthcare authorizes an individual to act on a patient’s behalf in regards to care, custody, and medical treatment when the patient receiving such services is unable to make decisions for him or herself. This is commonly referred to as a patient advocate, which is the individual who is granted the power to act on behalf of the patient. A living will is a document that instructs physicians and others to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures and equipment in the face of certain death, such as terminal illness. While its legal effect in Michigan is uncertain, the living will provides useful guidance to family, friends, physicians, and hospitals regarding the patient’s medical wishes . Finally, a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR), is a document directing that no resuscitation will be initiated if a patient’s heart stops beating and he or she stops breathing outside of a hospital. In order to execute this document, the individual must be a person who is at least age 18 and of sound mind, or a patient advocate of an individual who is at least age 18.
Now, returning to the question of whether your medical decisions are in order, they likely are not, as according to a study by Penn Medicine, less than 40% of U.S. adults had an advanced directive in place. In our legal practice, we find the most common reason for not having an advanced directive was lack of awareness, although executing a patient advocate designation at a hospital is a possibility. However, this selection can lead to quick, on the spot thinking, rather than taking the time to fully consider what is best for you and who is best to make those choices for you.
Therefore, when deciding what choices are best in regards to your medical care, consider the following questions:
- Whom can you trust to carry out decisions on your behalf in the event of your disability or incapacity?
- Is this person a responsible and dependable individual?
- Will this individual be willing to accept?
Think about who you can trust to carry out your wishes, and talk about it to such individuals, and close family and friends, so that your decisions are known. Decide what method is best for you, and disclose the location of pertinent documents.
Furthermore, should you find yourself unable to make your own medical decisions, instead of planning ahead, would you rather leave the choice to your family with no plan, setting the stage for disagreement and argument? Under these circumstances, your family, who is already grieving at your condition, may be left with the burden of deciding how to treat you further, or whether to even continue treatment at all. It is a monumental decision, and can bring about stress and potentially ruin relationships in the family. However, with a medical directive plan in place, you can lessen the burden, and be prepared in case of emergency.
- This information is for general educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.
If you are seeking legal guidance, Make an appointment with Patterson Justice Counsel and Attorney Tina M. Patterson for your consultation today. Don’t rush into decisions without the full and appropriate legal advice and backing.
Tina M. Patterson is the Principal Attorney of Patterson Justice Counsel, PLLC. She is an attorney licensed in the State of Michigan and Federal Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.