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Health Care Surrogate Designations And Living Wills

The State of Florida recognizes your fundamental right to make decisions concerning your health, including the right to choose or refuse medical treatment. This right can be preserved in the event of your incapacity by creating documents which state your wishes concerning your healthcare and also designate individuals who will direct the course of your treatment when you are unable to do so yourself.  By creating a Health Care Surrogate Designation and a Living Will, you will be completing essential aspects of your estate plan by ensuring that your healthcare wishes are clearly expressed and understood, and by providing guidance to friends and family members who may need to act on your behalf during very emotional and stressful times.

Under Florida law, a Health Care Surrogate is a document created by you wherein you designate one or more individuals to make decisions concerning your health care in the event of your incapacity.  Furthermore, it can specifically state the scope of your surrogate’s authority in various health care areas. For example, your surrogate can be given authority to consent to surgical or other medical procedures on your behalf, to authorize the administration of pain medication, to request and review copies of medical and hospital records, to sign documents and releases related to health care, to handle health insurance claims, to apply for public benefits and have access to financial records if necessary to complete such applications, and to manage health care agents including nurses and aids. Finally, a surrogate’s authority may be limited, if you choose, to exclude any of the above-mentioned powers.

A Florida Living Will is a document created by you wherein you state your wishes concerning the administration of life-prolonging procedures in the event you are suffering from a terminal condition, an end-stage condition or are in a permanent vegetative state.   The determination as to whether you suffer from one of the named conditions is made and documented by an attending or treating physician and at least one other consulting physician who examines you separately. Within the document, you have the specific right to choose or to refuse medical treatment and procedures which would effectively prolong your life when you are suffering from such a condition. Life-prolonging procedures include any medical procedures, treatments or interventions, including intake of food and water, which sustain, restore or replace a spontaneous vital function.  They do not include provisions for medications which provide you with comfort or alleviate pain.

A Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will must be signed in the presence of two independent witnesses.  Once these documents have been properly signed, copies of them should be provided to your physicians, hospitals and named surrogates so that they will have access to them when and if they should become necessary. Please remember that these documents only take effect and remain in effect during times of your incapacity. If you are able to make your own health care decisions, you have the absolute right to make them under Florida law.  Ultimately, these documents should serve to provide you with peace of mind knowing that your healthcare wishes are clearly indicated and will be respected throughout the remainder of your life, whatever the future holds for you.

Submitted by Laura G. MacLean, Esquire

2600 NE 14th Street Causeway

Pompano Beach,  FL  33062

Tel. 954-785-1900