Guardianship End of Life Authority Clarified

Posted on: Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

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The debate is over. Guardians of adults (but not guardians appointed for persons with developmental disabilities), have authority to sign “do not resuscitate orders” (often called “DNR” orders). The purpose of a DNR order is to preclude medical efforts to resuscitate an individual who is actively dying.

The phrase “do not resuscitate order” is used in at least two settings: in institutions (such as hospitals) and in non-institutional settings (for instance for someone who is ill but being cared for at home). DNR orders in these two settings are distinct in the law – but are both addressed in the new legislation. For some time there has been a divergence of opinions among probate judges in Michigan as to whether or not the guardians they appoint have the authority to sign DNR orders on behalf of their wards. At times this has resulted in unfortunate outcomes.

As a result of Public Acts 155 and 157 of 2013, the conflict has been resolved, and guardians are now authorized to sign off on such orders (which always also require a physician’s concurrence).

The new law took effect February 4, 2014.

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