Patient Advocate Selection

Attorney: Who would you like to make medical decisions for you if your spouse is unable to?

Client: Can I name all my children to act together?

It is difficult to identify the person to place this great responsibility on. I often remind clients that although the person they select may feel honored that they were chosen it can also be a thankless and difficult job. With the understanding of this huge responsibility, it is not uncommon for a parent to want all their children involved in making their important medical decisions. But here is why I do not recommend nor encourage naming co-advocates in a Patient Advocate Designation.

  1. How does a doctor know who to take instructions from if more than one person has authority to act?
  2. If the document says the agents must act together then both persons have to convey a unified decision to the doctor. This can be difficult when quick decisions are required.
  3. What if the co-patient advocates disagree? Without an agreement and clear consent to a medical plan of action the health of someone could be jeopardized and a court proceeding may be necessary.
  4. Decisions that result in the termination of life-sustaining treatment are the most difficult to make. A child who is processing the prospect of an imminent loss may not be prepared to separate their emotions from what is best for the patient and in line with the patient’s wishes.
  5. A medical facility could choose to not honor a co-advocate designation and require a court proceeding appointing someone to make decisions.

Instead choose in successive order of who should make medical decisions for you. You can certainly state your desire that the acting patient advocate confer with your other children. But your best interests will be served if just one person at a time serves in this important role.

What does Michigan law say about this? The language in the statute for choosing a patient advocate refers to appointment of a successor individual if the first individual does not accept, is incapacitated, resigns, or is removed. While the law for both medical and financial powers of attorney refer to one agent at a time, there is no express prohibition of co-advocates for a patient advocate or financial power of attorney designation.

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