When a person becomes incapacitated and unable to make decisions, health care decision-making authority for that person generally is granted to another individual. Here in Michigan, there are certain steps individuals may put in place to control who will attain this decision-making ability in the event they do someday become incapacitated. One of these steps is to put a patient advocate designation in place. This is a legal document in which a person specifies who will make health care decisions for them if incapacitaty were to strike.
As is the case with most legal documents, there are several legal requirements a patient advocate designation needs to meet in order to be valid. Under Michigan law, one of these requirements is that a person's signature of such a designation needs to be witnessed by two individuals. These two witnesses then also need to sign the designation.
An important thing to note is that not everyone may be a witness to a patient advocate designation. There are certain individuals that do not qualify as valid witnesses for such legal documents, including:
- The presumptive heirs and known devisees of the person making the designation.
- Certain relatives of the person making the designation, such as their siblings, children, grandchildren, parents or spouse.
- The doctor of the person making the designation.
- Employees at health care facilities the person making the designation is receiving care from.
- Employees of the health or life insurance provider of the person making the designation.
Complying with all relevant legal requirements is remarkably important when a person is setting up a patient advocate designation, or other legal documents regarding who will make decisions for them if they were to become incapacitated, as failure to do so could make their wishes futile if they ultimately become incapacitated. Guardianship/conservatorship attorneys can instruct individuals on how to best ensure such requirements are met.