Patient Advocate Designation

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A patient advocate designation authorizes someone to act on your behalf if you become unable to direct your own medical care. This can happen because of illness, accident, advanced age, or other reasons. A patient advocate designation is also referred to as a medical power of attorney or durable power of attorney for health care. The patient advocate designation is an important and useful legal document that should be included in any estate plan.

If you do not specify your wishes in writing about the kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want to receive and name someone to oversee your case, these important decisions could be left to estranged family members, doctors, judges, or other third parties who may know very little about you or what you would prefer.

The person you name to make medical decisions on your behalf is called your patient advocate. People generally name a spouse, relative, or close friend as their patient advocate. The most important thing is that your patient advocate is someone you trust and can depend on. In Michigan, a patient advocate must be at least 18 years old, and must sign an acceptance of their designation as patient advocate.

The authority that can be granted to a patient advocate includes (1) the power to direct your health care decisions, (2) hiring and firing medical personnel, (3) visiting you in the hospital or other facility even when others are restricted, (4) having access to medical records or other personal information, and (5) getting court authorization to enforce your health care wishes if a hospital or doctor refuses to honor them for any reason.

A document related to the patient advocate designation (and sometimes included in the same document) is the living will or advanced health care directive. This document allows you to set forth specific wishes about the type of medical treatment you want or don’t want. For example, a living will can state whether you want to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments under certain circumstances. Without guidance from the proper estate planning documents, your loved ones can easily become uncertain about treatment decisions. Giving your family clear, written directions about your end-of-life wishes can help avoid unnecessary anguish and make sure you get the care you want.