Questions and Answers About Advance Directives
What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is a written document in which you specify what type of medical care you want in the future, or who you want to make decisions for you, should you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself.
Why is there a need for advance directives?
Years ago, most individuals died in their own homes. Today, there is greater chance of dying in a hospital or nursing home.
Expanding technology has increased the treatment choices we face, and improved public health has increased life expectancy. Decisions may have to be made concerning our care at a time we can no longer communicate our wishes.
What are the advantages of having an advance directive?
We each have our own values, wishes and goals. Having an advance directive provides you some assurance your personal wishes concerning medical and mental treatment will be honored at a time when you are not able to express them. Having an advance directive may also prevent the need for a guardianship imposed through the probate court.
Must I have an advance directive?
No. The decision to have an advance directive is purely voluntary. No family member, hospital or insurance company can force you to have one, or dictate what the document should say if you decide to write one. A hospital or nursing home or hospice organization cannot deny you service because you do or don’t have an advance directive.
Are there different types of advance directives?
Yes. Three types are a durable power of attorney for health care, a living will, and a do-not-resuscitate declaration.
There is also a declaration of anatomical gift, to take effect when you die.
Can I have more than one type of advance directive?
Yes. You may choose to have any number of advance directives, or to have none at all.
Durable Power of Attorney For Health Care
What is a durable power of attorney for health care?
A durable power of attorney for health care, also known as a health care proxy or a patient advocate designation, is a document in which you appoint another individual to make medical treatment and related personal care decisions for you.
You can, in addition, choose to give your patient advocate power to make decisions concerning mental health care you may need.
Finally, you can empower your patient advocate to donate specific organs or your entire body upon your death.
Is a durable power of attorney for health care legally binding?
Who is eligible to have a durable power of attorney for health care?
You must be at least 18 years old, and you must understand you are giving another person power to make certain decisions for you should you become unable to make them.
What is the person to whom I give decision-making power called?
That person is known as your patient advocate.
When can the patient advocate act in my behalf?
Your patient advocate can make decisions for you only when you become unable to participate in medical treatment decisions yourself. Until that time, you make your own decisions directly.
If you choose to give your patient advocate power to make decisions about mental health treatment, your patient advocate can only act if you cannot give informed consent to mental health treatment.
How might I become unable to participate in medical or mental health decisions?
You might have a temporary loss of ability to make or communicate decisions if, for example, you had a stroke or were knocked unconscious in a car accident. You might suffer permanent loss through a degenerative condition, such as dementia.
You might become unable to make mental health decisions if a condition such as severe depression or schizophrenia affected your mood or thought process.
Who determines I am no longer able to participate in these decisions?
The doctor responsible for your care and one other doctor or psychologist who examines you will make that determination in the case of medical decisions.
After examining you, a doctor and a mental health professional (physician, psychologist, registered nurse or masters-level social worker) must each make the determination in respect to mental health treatment. You may in the document choose the doctor and mental health professional you wish to make this determination.
What if my religious beliefs prohibit an examination by a doctor?
You should state in your durable power of attorney document your religious beliefs prohibit an examination by a doctor, and how you want it determined you are unable to participate in health care decisions.
What powers can I give a patient advocate?
You can give a patient advocate power to make those personal care decisions you normally make for yourself. For example, you can give your patient advocate power to consent to or refuse medical treatment for you; arrange for mental health treatment, home health care or adult day care; or admit you to a hospital, nursing home or home for the aged.
You can also authorize your patient advocate to make a gift of your organs or body, to be effective upon your death.
Will my patient advocate have power to handle my financial affairs?
You can give your patient advocate power to arrange for medical and personal care services, and to pay for those services using your funds. Your patient advocate will not have general power to handle all your property and finances.
If you wish another person to handle all your property and financial affairs should you become incapacitated, you could seek a lawyer’s help to draft a durable power of attorney for finances or a living trust.
Can I give my patient advocate the right to withhold or withdraw treatment that would allow me to die?
Yes, but you must express in a clear and convincing manner the patient advocate is authorized to make such decisions, and you must acknowledge these decisions could or would allow your death.
Can I authorize my patient advocate to decide to withhold or withdraw food and water administered through tubes?
Yes. If you want to give you patient advocate this authority, describe in the document the specific circumstances in which he or she can act – terminal illness, and permanent unconsciousness, for example.
Do I have the right in the document to express other wishes?
Yes. You might, for example express your wishes concerning other types of care you want during terminal illness. You could also express a desire not to be placed in a nursing home and a desire to die at home. Your patient advocate has a duty to try to follow your wishes.
What are my options about mental health care?
First, you have a choice whether or not to give your patient advocate any powers concerning mental health care.
If you choose to give your patient advocate powers concerning mental health care, you should specify clearly which powers he or she can exercise. Some powers to consider are outpatient treatment, hospitalization, administration of psychotropic medication, and electro-convulsive therapy (ECT).
You can also provide greater detail – what hospital you prefer and what medications you want or don’t want, for instance.
What are my options concerning organ donation?
You can choose whether or not to give your patient advocate this power.
If you wish your patient advocate to have this power, you can specify which organs you want donated, or whether your whole body is to be donated. You can specify where or to whom you wish your organs donated.
You can also complete the separate form in this booklet, Declaration of Anatomical Gift. If you state your wishes both in the durable power of attorney and in the declaration of anatomical gift, make sure your wishes are the same in both documents.
Is it important to express my specific wishes in an advance directive?
Your wishes cannot be followed if no one is aware of them. It can also be a burden for your advocate to make a decision for you without guidance. If you have specific desires, make these clear to your patient advocate in talking to him or her. Also consider including these wishes in the document.
What is the duty of my patient advocate?
Your patient advocate has a duty to take reasonable steps to follow your desires and instructions, oral and written, expressed while you were able to participate.
Are there exceptions?
A mental health professional can refuse to honor your wishes concerning a specific mental health treatment, location or professional, if there is a psychiatric emergency endangering your life or the life of another person.
What if I don’t express any specific wishes concerning medical treatment?
Your patient advocate must then make decisions about medical care in what he or she sees as your best interest.
Will a hospital or nursing home allow my patient advocate to review my records?
Yes. A patient has the right to inspect and copy his or her hospital or nursing home records. Your patient advocate has the same right you have, once you are unable to participate in treatment decisions.
Whom can I appoint as patient advocate?
Any person age 18 or older is eligible; you can appoint your spouse, an adult child, a friend or other individual. You should choose someone you trust, who can handle the responsibility, and who is willing to serve.
It is a good idea to speak with the individual you propose to name as patient advocate before you complete and sign the document.
Can I appoint a second person to serve as patient advocate in case the first person is unable to serve?
Yes. It is a good idea to do so. There is no provision in law to allow more than one person to serve at the same time.
What must I do to have a valid durable power of attorney for health care?
The declaration must be in writing, signed by you, and witnessed by two adults.
There are restrictions on who can be a witness. You need witnesses who are not family members, not your doctor or proposed patient advocate, not an employee of a health facility or program where you are a patient or client.
What does a patient advocate need to do before acting in my behalf?
Before the patient advocate can act, he or she must sign an acceptance. This can be done at the time you complete the document or at a later time. The general language of the acceptance is set forth in law.
Is there a required form for the document?
No. You may choose to request a sample form from your healthcare provider. There are a number of organizations that provide different, free forms.
Make sure in completing any document you type or print clearly.
Must I use a fill-in-the-blanks form?
No. You may write out your own document or have a lawyer draft a document for you.
Once I sign a durable power of attorney, may I change my mind?
Yes. You may want to name a different patient advocate or alter the expression of your wishes. So long as you are of sound mind, you can sign a new document and then destroy the old one.
Regardless of your physical or mental condition, you can revoke or cancel the durable power of attorney by indicating in any way the document does not reflect your current wishes. Also, any spoken wish to have a specific life-extending treatment provided must be honored by a patient advocate, even if the wish contradicts a written directive.
Are there different rules for mental health treatment?
Yes. You can choose to waive your right to immediately revoke the durable power of attorney insofar as mental health treatment. In such case, your revocation is effective 30 days after you communicate your intent.
Can my patient advocate refuse to act in my behalf?
Yes. A patient advocate can revoke his or her Acceptance at any time. If so, your named successor would become patient advocate.
What if there is a dispute when my patient advocate is making decisions for me?
If an interested person disputes whether the patient advocate is acting in your best interests, or has the authority to act in your behalf, the interested person may petition the local probate court to resolve the dispute.
What if I regain the ability to participate in medical or mental health decisions?
The powers of your patient advocate are suspended during the time you are able to participate in decisions.
What if I have no one to appoint as a patient advocate?
You can still complete a living will or a do-not-resuscitate declaration, or both.
Corpore Sano Home Health & Hospice does have blank copies of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form, which you may use to designate you patient advocate. This is a suggested form only. Michigan law does not require a specific form to be used. If you wish to provide more details in your durable power document, you may attach additional pages to any form that you use, in order to specify those details. Please let our staff know if you’d like a sample form, and they’ll be happy to provide one to you on your next visit.
Corpore Sano Home Health & Hospice
39475 Ann Arbor Rd
Plymouth, MI 48170