COVID-19 vaccines are here! The hardest hit individuals have been our front-line health care workers and loved ones in nursing homes and other congregate homes for the elderly and infirm. It is fitting that these two groups are the first among us to receive the vaccine.
Consent Forms Will Be Required
Lansing, Detroit, and Grand Rapids nursing home administrators have confirmed that they will require a consent form before any resident receives the vaccine. It is likely that most residents and most nursing home administrators will want all the residents vaccinated to obtain the best protection the vaccine affords to the community. Without the necessary consent forms in place, the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to residents of nursing homes and congregate care communities will be delayed.
Who Can Sign the Consent Forms?
While logistics are still being worked out, we know that consent forms for COVID-19 vaccines can be signed by residents who:
- are mentally competent
- have a patient advocate who will consent (provided the patient advocate’s authority has been triggered by two doctors certifying that the patient is unable to participate in medical heath treatment decisions)
- have a guardian who will consent
What If No One is in Place to Consent?
If your loved one is in a congregate care community and does not fall into one of the above categories, you should file a petition with the probate court for a temporary guardian with authority to consider and consent to the COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, you may wish to consider requesting that the Court grant limited or full authority as guardian and conservator to assist your loved one with additional health care and financial decisions.
Probate courts are aware of this important issue and are ready to facilitate prompt review of such temporary guardianship petitions. One such Court, the Kent County Probate Court, issued a press release today urging action by families and nursing homes alike to take immediate action to enable prompt delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. News Release, Kent County Probate Court, Grand Rapids, MI - January 4, 2021.
In the News Release, Kent County Chief Probate Judge David M. Murkowski is quoted as saying:
"While many residents of nursing homes and family members have already taken the necessary legal steps to allow for important medical decisions to be made on their behalf, the court wants to make sure that there are no delays in vaccinating vulnerable populations. Family members have an obligation to waste no time in making sure that the proper steps have been taken to make sure their incapacitated loved ones can be vaccinated."
Nursing Homes Can Also Be Proactive to Get Consent
Care facilities also face the issue of obtaining consent for vaccinating their residents who lack mental capacity, and have no patient advocate or guardian, or any family member willing to petition to become guardian. This type of situation places the facility in the position of petitioning for appointment of a public guardian authorized by the Court to act on the question of consent to vaccination and other health care decisions as may be needed.
Nursing home administrators should survey their residents to determine which residents cannot sign COVID-19 vaccination consent forms and help facilitate action by the patient advocate, guardian, or family member willing to petition probate court. Absent one of these options, nursing home administrators should file a petition seeking either a court-ordered vaccination or the appointment of a limited guardian with the power to consider and consent to the vaccination.
Questions? We can help.
Fraser Trebilcock's Trusts & Estates lawyers are up to date with the current developments in this rapidly evolving area of public health and elder law. If you have questions, or need help, give us a call.
Chair of Fraser Trebilcock’s Trusts and Estates Department, attorney Marlaine C. Teahan is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, and is the past Chair of the Probate and Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan. For help getting necessary legal authority for your loved one’s COVID-19 vaccine consent form, contact Marlaine at 517.290.0057 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to talk with an attorney about putting legal plans in place, contact attorney Melisa M. W. Mysliwiec. Melisa focuses her work in the areas of Elder Law and Medicaid planning, estate planning, and trust and estate administration. She can be reached at email@example.com or 616-301-0800.