A Patient Advocate Designation is a legal document that allows individuals to appoint another person to exercise powers over their care, custody, and medical treatment decisions during any period in which they are unable to participate in making those decisions. A Patient Advocate Designation is sometimes identified as a Medical Power of Attorney or a Health Care Proxy. This document allows individuals to direct how medical treatment will be provided to them in the event they are unable to participate in medical treatment decisions due to their mental or physical condition.
Decisions about medical care can be among the most difficult and personal decisions that individuals face. Most people have strong opinions about the type of care they may want in certain situations. Sometimes, their mental or physical condition is such that they are no longer able to voice their opinions or designate another person to make these decisions due to their mental or physical condition.
Patient Advocate Designations (“P.A.D.s”) go by many names (Medical Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, living wills, etc.). Patient Advocate Designations are legal documents that allow individuals (called “Patients”) to appoint another person or persons (a “Patient Advocate”) to exercise powers over their care, custody, and medical treatment decisions during any period in which they are unable to participate in making those decisions. Every individual has the legal right to make decisions regarding their own medical treatment. P.A.D.s allow individuals to direct how medical treatment will be provided to them in the event that they are unable to participate in medical treatment decisions due to their mental or physical condition.
P.A.D.s are the only Michigan legal documents by which individuals can designate another person to make medical treatment decisions for them. Neither trustees under revocable living trusts nor agents under financial Durable Powers of Attorney are authorized by law to make these decisions unless they also have been properly appointed Patient Advocate. If an individual with no patient advocate receives Medicaid or has a reduced life expectancy due to an advanced illness, the law allows the family to make medical treatment decisions when the individual is unable to do so. However, the law is unclear on who makes decisions if there is conflict among family members. In uncontested situations with no designated patient advocate, decisions generally may be made by a consensus of the next of kin but there is no legal basis for making decisions in that manner.
The designation of a Patient Advocate often eliminates the need for a court-appointed guardian. Guardians are court-appointed advocates who have the right to make care, custody, and medical treatment decisions for the person for whom they have been appointed guardian. However, if that person had properly executed a Patient Advocate Designation before the appointment of the guardian, the Patient Advocate usually retains the power to make decisions regarding the person’s medical care.
In addition to appointing a Patient Advocate, individuals may include a statement of their desires relating to their care and medical treatment in the designation. They can also make “living will” declarations to describe the types of life-sustaining treatment that they would like to receive.
Do you have a Patient Advocate Designation? Isn’t it about time you considered one?
Check out the following link for a publication from the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan: