Health Care Decision – Making in Florida

Health Care Decision – Making in Florida

Florida law has attempted to define health care decision making and allowed an individual to name his or her health care surrogate.  The law titled, “Health Care Advance Directives” covers five areas:

  • General Provisions and Definitions
  • Health Care Surrogate
  • Life Prolonging Procedures
  • Procedures in the Absence of Advance Directives
  • Anatomical Gifts

The law’s purpose was to allow individuals an opportunity to plan for their future health care needs with a reasonable degree of certainty. And further, “…to allow a person to plan for incapacity by executing a document or orally designating another person to direct the course of his or her medical treatment upon his or her capacity.”

Health Care Decision – Surrogates and Proxies

Importantly, a properly executed health care surrogate designation offers a lesser restrictive and less expensive alternative to guardianship. Without a designated health care surrogate, a person’s health care decisions may be left to a court appointed guardian or a proxy; both of which are not selected by the individual.

A proxy may be appointed when no surrogate has been designated or when the surrogate is unable or unwilling to serve. Patients in need of a proxy decision maker may have one selected for them in the following in order of priority.

  • Judicially appointed guardian;
  • The patient’s spouse;
  • The adult child or a majority of the patient’s adult children who are reasonably available for consultation;
  • A parent of the patient;
  • The adult sibling or majority of the patient’s adult siblings who are reasonably available for consultation;
  • An adult relative of the patient who has exhibited special care and concern for the patient and who has maintained regular contact with the patient and who is familiar with the patient’s activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs; or
  • A close friend of the patient;
  • A licensed clinical social worker pursuant to Chapter 491, or who is a graduate of a court-approved guardianship program.

One may designate a person to be their surrogate with a written document, acknowledged by the principal in the presence of two attesting witnesses, one of which may not be the principal’s spouse or blood relative and neither of which may be the designated surrogate.

The important note is choice. If you have selected your health care surrogate, then you’ve made the choice of who will make your health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. Otherwise, the law will choose for you.

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