Do I Need a Health Care Directive in Michigan?

Discussing your death is not a pleasant topic for you or your loved ones. Death is a difficult subject even for those who have lived a long, full life and who are “ready” for that next step. However, discussing your health care decisions for end-of-life conditions is extremely important. If your loved ones do not understand your wishes about life-sustaining and life-prolonging medical treatments, such as feeding tubes and artificial respirators, they might make health care decisions for you that go against your wishes.

To ensure that your wishes are known, you must tackle the difficult subject of death with your family members.  You must make your desires known while you are of sound mind. However, making your desires known to your family members may not be sufficient. You need to take legal steps to ensure those wishes are honored.

What is a Health Care Directive?

A health care directive is a legal document that explains your wishes for end-of-life medical treatment or medical treatment during incapacitation. In other words, a health care directive speaks for you when you are unable to speak for yourself. Simply telling your loved ones how you feel about life-sustaining medical treatments is not enough. Unless you have a legal document that allows a doctor to go against your family’s wishes, your family members could do the opposite of your desires when you are unable to speak for yourself.

For example, if you are in a car accident, suffer a head injury, and fall into a coma, you will be unable to tell your doctors you do not want to be resuscitated if you enter cardiac arrest. Even though you discussed your strong aversion to being resuscitated, your spouse tells the doctor to do so. You go into cardiac arrest several times, and each time the medical staff resuscitates you because your spouse permits them to do so. This scenario is exactly what you did not want to happen. However, you are unable to tell the doctors your desires. Without any evidence to the contrary, the doctors must follow the wishes of your next of kin.

Another example of what can go wrong without a health care directive arises when several family members disagree about treatment. Take the same example from above, but instead of a spouse, you have three children making the decisions for a parent. Unfortunately, two of your children want the medical staff to resuscitate you, but your third child tells the doctor you did not want this medical intervention. Without a health care directive, your children could find themselves in a heated court battle to determine who has the right to make health care decisions for you.

Appointing an Agent to Act on Your Behalf

A health care directive allows you to appoint an agent to carry out your directives and make medical decisions for you, in addition to outlining your decisions regarding various medical treatments. The health care directive is intended to “speak” for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Furthermore, it gives your agent the power to act on your behalf when you cannot do so for yourself.

A health care directive is not intended only to be used when you are in a coma. Your health care directive can be useful if you develop Alzheimer’s disease or another disease that is permanent and will eventually prevent you from making medical decisions for yourself or if you are going under general anesthesia.

Choosing a Person You Can Trust

When choosing an agent for your health care directive, choose someone you can trust to carry out your desires. This person may or may not be a family member. In some cases, it can be difficult for family members to take certain actions, especially if those actions might result in your death. The person you choose to be your agent needs to understand your wishes. Therefore, discussing your wishes with your agent in detail is very important.  Be very clear about your desires and what actions your agent should and should not take when making health care decisions for you.

In addition to communicating your desires to your agent, you should also communicate those desires to your family. Explain your health care decisions and explain that your agent is authorized to carry out those desires and make medical decisions for you. It might be difficult for your family to hear, but it can also be a relief if they do not need to make difficult medical decisions. By executing a health care directive, you have taken the stress of making decisions away from your family because you have already made those decisions for yourself.

Executing a Health Care Directive in Michigan

If you want to execute a health care directive, it is important to consult with a Michigan probate attorney. You want to make sure that your directive is valid and legal according to the laws in Michigan that govern this type of legal document.

The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA can help you with a health care directive. Contact our office by calling 888-390-4360 or use the contact form on our website to request more information or schedule an appointment with our Michigan probate attorney.

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