• Jennifer Reed

Patient Advocate Designation

Who makes medical decisions for you when you can no longer make them for yourself?

Your Patient Advocate!

Patient Advocate Designations are called different thing depending on your location, they may be called a health care surrogate, health care proxy, or similar names. You may also have heard of a health care power of attorney which names or appoints the patient advocate.

A patient advocate is a springing power, meaning it “springs” into action at a specified time. Here, when you can no longer medical decisions for yourself.

Many Patient Advocate Designations contain “living” provisions; these are written directions to your patient advocate about your health care.

What happens if you don’t have a Patient Advocate Designation?

It may be difficult to terminate life support once it has started. A case many are familiar with is that of Terri Schiavo. Terri’s husband wanted to end life support while her parents wanted to maintain it. A Michigan case involved a man who was in a car accent and left on life support. A battle commenced between his spouse, sister and mother as to terminating life support. In neither of these cases did the patient have directions in writing or designate the person who had the decision-making authority.

Additionally if you do not appoint a patient advocate yourself, the court may appoint one for you. The person the court appoints is called a Guardian. If you designate a patient advocate, they will have priority to make medical decisions if a guardian is latter appointed. The guardian does not have any powers over medical or mental health treatment that you granted to the patient advocate.

Treatment to consider when talking to an attorney about a patient advocate:

- Life Support -Coma or vegetative states

- DNR orders -Whether to undergo certain operations/treatments

- Anatomical Gifts -waiting times to see if condition improves

- Terminal Illnesses - Control over your remains

-If you would like the patient advocate to consult with family

- If artificial nutrition and hydration is to be withheld

-The extent to which the patient advocate may direct mental health treatment

Picking a Patient Advocate:

Your patient advocate will be making difficult decisions under stress. When selecting someone to act as a patient advocate for you, consider the following:

-If you are selecting a child to be your patient advocate, do they have siblings? Do they all get along? Will there be fighting regarding end of life decisions? Will the patient advocate use this opportunity to control their siblings?

-Your patient advocate may have to account and defend every decision that is made. Are they capable and organized enough to handle this responsibility? Are they good at keeping records, managing money, and other transactions?

- Will the selected person have the courage to follow your wishes when they are challenged or face push back?

An Estate Planning attorney can help you pick a patient advocate and create a patient advocate designation that reflects your wishes.

Information in this blog post is not legal advice but general information. Contact an estate planning attorney to implement a plan for you.

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