WHAT ARE ADVANCED DIRECTIVES?
An Advanced Directive is a document that allows you to give directions about your future medical care. The document protects your right to accept or refuse medical care if you ever become mentally or physically unable to choose or communicate your wishes due to illness or injury. Anybody who is 18 years of age or older, and of sound mind, can make an advanced directive.
TYPES OF ADVANCED DIRECTIVES
A living will is a legal document that states your wishes concerning end of life medical treatment. It is used to declare under what circumstances you want medical care held or withdrawn. A living will refers only to withholding or withdrawing care and is not used to specify wishes for healthcare treatment. For individuals wishing to provide instructions for care beyond the decision to withhold treatment, a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for Healthcare is recommended and is explained below. Because Michigan does not have a living will statute or law, but rather an advanced directive statute, a living will is self-executing meaning witnesses are not required to activate your living will.
Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) for Healthcare
A DPOA for healthcare is a written document that allows you to appoint someone (advocate or proxy) to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable. This document is not only used to clarify end of life decisions, but allows you to specify guidelines and limitations for healthcare decisions should you become unable of making decisions for yourself. This form is recommended for all persons 18 years of age and older. The DPOA for Healthcare only becomes active under certain circumstances, such as when a person is incapacitated or determined to be incompetent. A Designation of Patient Advocate Form, if filled out properly, meets the requirements of a complex and detailed statute. Upon completion, the document needs to be provided to your healthcare provider, and with each hospital admission, in the event it needs to be activated. Michigan requires two witnesses who cannot be your designated advocate, a known beneficiary or a healthcare provider.
Physician Orders of Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
POLST is a physician order designed to improve end of life care by converting your treatment decisions into medical orders that are transferable throughout the healthcare system. The POLST form assures that medical providers will provide only the care that you wish to receive for your current condition, and decreases the frequency of medical errors. This option should be discussed further with your primary care physician as a POLST is not for everyone. Only patients with serious, progressive, chronic illnesses should have a POLST form. For these patients, their current health status indicates the need for standing medical orders. For healthy patients, a Living Will and/or Durable Power of Attorney is an appropriate tool for making future end-of-life care wishes known to loved ones. ( Source: www.polst.org )
It is your right to accept or refuse medical care and Advance Directives can protect this right. It allows you to make medical choices that can affect your life, takes the responsibility and stress away from your loved ones in making difficult decisions and provides guidelines to your physician regarding your care.
If you would like to obtain more information, or for assistance in completing advanced directives, please contact your primary care physician, the BCMH Physician Group at (906)524-6118, the BCMH social worker at (906) 524-3355, Baraga County Home Care & Hospice at (906) 524-4663, or visit www.msms.org/dpa.