An advanced directive specifies the type of medical care a person wants or names someone to make decisions for them if they can no longer make their own decisions. A living will is one of three types of advance directives in the state of Michigan. While 47 states give living wills legal force, Michigan does not.
Advance Directives Under Michigan Law
An advance directive is an estate planning document used to specify the medical care that an individual desires. It also defines who will make medical decisions for them in the event they cannot do so for themselves. An advance directive assures that their wishes are honored if they cannot express them, and it may also prevent a probate court's guardianship order.
Having an advance directive is voluntary – no person or entity can force someone to have one or dictate what an advance directive should say. A hospice, nursing home or hospital cannot deny someone care if they don't have an advance directive. There are generally three types of advance directives: a durable power of attorney for health care, a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, and a living will.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will is a document that allows an individual to inform family members and doctors about the medical care they wish to have if they become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
In comparison, a durable power of attorney for health care is a document that authorizes someone to make decisions regarding medical treatment and personal care on behalf of an individual who can not do so themselves, and a DNR is a document that allows individuals to declare they do not want anyone to attempt resuscitation if their breathing and heartbeat ceases.
This written document can state the individual's wishes in very general terms, for example, "I authorize all measures be taken to prolong my life." It can also be specific on measures such as blood transfusions, medication, surgery, CPR or food and water intake, among others.
Triggering of a Living Will by Healthcare Providers
A living will begins when medical professionals diagnose a person as permanently unconscious or terminally ill and declare that the individual is unable to make or communicate health care decisions.
Michigan and Living Wills
Forty-seven states give living wills legal force. However, Michigan is not one of them. Nevertheless, a person may still want to have a living will in some circumstances, particularly if they don't have a durable power of attorney for healthcare. Also, if an individual's wishes are unknown, they can't be honored.
A patient advocate can read an individual's living will to express their wishes. The written document may also be valuable if the patient advocate is unavailable when it becomes necessary to make a difficult decision regarding the terminally ill or unconscious person.
Michigan Living Will Formalities
Since Michigan does not have a state law regarding living wills, it does not have formal requirements for writing them. However, the Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program recommends that the document have the title of "Living Will."
The individual named in the living will form should sign and date it, and two witnesses not related to the individual should also sign the document.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.