Living Will Requirements in Michigan

By Timothy Mucciante

In Michigan, a living will is one of three types of advance directives; the other two types are a durable power of attorney and a do-not-resuscitate order. An advanced directive is a document signed by an individual that specifies what type of medical care he wants in the future, or who he wants to make decisions for him if he loses the ability to make his own decisions. The Michigan legislature has not given any legal force to the living will in Michigan, although 47 other states have done so.

Living Will

Every person has the right to make health care decisions for herself; however, in some circumstances, you may not be able to communicate your desires regarding your health care choices. A living will is limited in scope and deals with specific situations, but using one does give you some say in end-of-life decisions. For example, a living will may deal with discontinuing life support at the end of a prolonged terminal illness. A living will provides you with the ability to communicate your final wishes to the medical staff when you are unable to do so.

Enforceability of a Living Will

Although Michigan healthcare institutions are not bound to follow your wishes specified in a living will, based on a Michigan court decision, there is an argument that living wills are binding in this state, according to the State Bar of Michigan. No one, however, can provide absolute assurance your wishes will be honored. Because there is no state law regarding living wills, there are no formal requirements for drafting one. However, it is advisable to title the document, "Living Will," sign it, and have two witnesses who are not family members sign it. You can also use an online document preparation website to prepare your living will.

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Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

A durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a health care proxy, is a document in which you appoint another individual to make medical treatment and personal care decisions for you. The person you appoint is called a "patient advocate." You can appoint any adult to act as your patient advocate. A living will is different than a durable power of attorney, in that the living will only expresses what you would like to happen -- it does not appoint a patient advocate to make sure it happens. You can authorize your patient advocate to withhold or withdraw food and water administered through tubes. You can also express your wishes concerning other types of care you want during a terminal illness in your health care proxy. A durable power of attorney for health care is binding in Michigan.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

A DNR, or do-not-resuscitate, declaration is a specific type of advance directive. You may use this directive if you do not want anyone to attempt to resuscitate you when your breathing and heartbeat stop. Unlike a living will and durable power of attorney, most health care organizations will only use their forms for a DNR order. Before you sign a DNR order, it is best to consult with your doctor and family.

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Can the Next of Kin Overrule a Living Will?

When you can’t make health care decisions for yourself, your next of kin can step in to make those decisions for you. However, while you are still capable of making decisions, you can create a living will to document your health care wishes. When your documented wishes conflict with what your family wants, your physicians are supposed to follow the terms of your living will.

How to Supersede a Medical Power of Attorney

A power of attorney, or POA, for medical purposes allows you to authorize a friend or relative to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The health care instructions themselves are detailed in a living will, which specifies what treatments you do or do not want. The person who holds the medical POA, called the agent, is required to act in good faith when carrying out your wishes. For example, if you want to be taken off life support machines at the end of life, a statement to that effect in a living will requires your agent and health care professionals to honor those directives in almost all circumstances. However, the medical POA can be superseded and the power of your agent overridden in a few situations.

Does a Living Will Expire?

A living will provides you with the freedom to determine how medical decisions should be made in the event you become unable or unwilling to make them for yourself. The document also allows you to appoint a health care representative to act on your behalf to carry out these wishes. Although state laws can vary, living wills generally do not expire while you are alive, absent special circumstances or your express intent.

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