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.
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.
Read More: Can I Fill Out My Own Living Will and Have it Be Legal?
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.
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.
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.
- Northern Lakes Community Mental Health: A Guide to Advance Directives and Guardianship in Michigan
- Michiganlegalaid.org: Living Wills
- State Bar of Michigan: Advance Directives
- Estates and Protected Individuals Code (Excerpt) Act 386 of 1998 Part 5 Durable Power of Attorney and Designation of Patient Advocate
Timothy Mucciante has worked as a lawyer and business consultant, and has been writing professionally since 1981. His writing has appeared in the "Michigan Bar Journal" and many corporate publications. Mucciante holds both a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Michigan State University and a Juris Doctor from Michigan State University/Detroit College of Law.