What would happen if you could no longer make decisions about your medical care and treatment because you were seriously ill or injured? How would your family and physician know your wishes? How do you feel about ventilators, surgery, resuscitation (CPR), drugs or tube feedings if you were terminally ill, senile or unconscious and not likely to wake up? Who would make these decisions on your behalf? You can plan ahead and communicate your wishes by writing an advance medical directive.
Advance directives are not just for the elderly. Unexpected situations can happen at any time. A serious accident or a life-threatening event such as a stroke or heart attack can happen at any age, leaving a person unable to communicate his or her choices about treatment.
An advance directive is a form you fill out to let your doctors and others know what medical care you want if you become too sick to make your own decisions. Two types of advance directives are a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (also called a Patient Advocate form) and a Living Will.
A Patient Advocate form gives an adult family member or friend the legal rights to make health care decisions for you. This person then becomes your Patient Advocate. Your Patient Advocate can only make medical decisions for you when it is clear you can no longer make them yourself.
It is important for you to talk about the medical care choices you want with your Patient Advocate. You can write out these choices in a form called a Living Will. A Living Will is another type of advance directive. It is not legally binding in Michigan but it helps your Patient Advocate and doctor know what care you would want under certain conditions.
Many people complete an advance directive form that includes both the Patient Advocate and the Living Will.
We will follow the decisions made by your Patient Advocate, as long as he or she follows the wishes you put into your advance directive and the laws of the state of Michigan.
No one can require you to have an advance medical directive. You can still make treatment choices while you are competent. “Competent” means that you understand your condition and the results your decisions may have. But if you are no longer competent, and you have made sure your family knows what you would want, it makes it much easier to follow your wishes. Without knowing your wishes in advance, families can be torn apart trying to decide what is best for you. In the event of disagreements or disputes, the court may have to name a guardian to make decisions on your behalf – and this person would likely be a stranger to you.
If you have an advance directive, please bring a copy with you to your next visit to your doctor or the hospital. We will make a copy to put into your medical record. We will not refuse to give you medical care if you do not have one.
Click here for a free form to make an advance directive that is legally binding in the state of Michigan.
If you have questions, call Metro Health Hospital’s Legal Services Department at 616-252-7394.