Problems with the Five Wishes and Free Advanced Directives
In my Michigan estate planning practice, I’ve had a ton of clients and financial planners bring up the Five Wishes as a way to handle end of life decisions. Everyone over the age of 18 in Michigan needs advanced directives (sometimes called medical powers of attorney). In Michigan we call these documents Patient Advocate Designations.
A popular version of this is called the Five Wishes.
Now understand, there are a variety of healthcare advanced directives. There could me medical powers of attorney, living wills, or Do-Not Resuscitate orders (DNRs).
Now where do the Five Wishes fit in? They should probably come with a warning label as this article discusses.
One of the issues with the Five Wishes is that it incorporates a specific religious creed that makes it permissible to take action that you know will cause death, it cannot intend death. A very, very subtle concept, but the theory is called the “doctrine of double effect.”
For example, wish Number 2, “My Wish for the Kind of Medical Treatment I Want or Don’t Want.” includes the general instruction “I do not want anything done or omitted by my doctors or nurses with the intention of taking my life.” However, continuing on it includes language that you can check a box to say you “do not want life-support.”
The confusion is that a doctor or hospital could interpret that language as intending death and thereby creating confusion. What a mess of a document!
This is just one issue with the Five Wishes document.
Another issue, which is an issue with the state forms some states have, including Michigan, is that there is an unauthorized practice of law aspect involved where you have medical providers explaining one of the most important legal documents that can effect your life (or death).
My advice? Sit down with a certified elder law attorney who can walk you through all of the issues involving end of life decision making. It’s your life, don’t risk it.