There are two primary advance directives everyone should have known as a Designation of Health Care Surrogate and a Living Will. The Designation of Health Care Surrogate is a legal document which relates specifically to medical decision making authority. The person you select will be able to make medical decisions on you behalf during any period of time you are incapacitated or unable to provide informed consent. Successor surrogates can also be named in the event the first-named surrogate is unable to act. Such medical decision making authority can include consenting to emergency procedures, filing claims for insurance benefits or public assistance benefits, obtaining medical records, or admitting or transferring an individual from a medical facility. The surrogate in the Health Care Surrogate Designation may also be the individual to carry out any declaration for end of life decisions.
The Living Will expresses certain procedures to be withheld or withdrawn in the event a person has been diagnosed as suffering from an end-stage irreversible condition, a terminal condition, or a persistent vegetative state. This diagnosis must be made by the attending or treating physician of the individual and confirmed by another consulting physician before any life prolonging measures will be withheld or withdrawn. An individual signing this document will be acknowledging that if two doctors diagnose him or her as suffering from a condition where there is no hope of recovery within a reasonable degree of certainty, then life prolonging measures may be withheld or withdrawn. A surrogate can be named to enforce the provisions of the document itself.
When you sign a Living Will, you are making these decisions in advance. You should speak to the surrogate you are appointing and confirm that he or she is willing to following your decisions regarding the withholding or withdrawing of these life prolonging procedures. Your surrogate’s responsibility is to follow your wishes.
On both the Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will, it is important you put your decisions in writing. If you lack either of these documents, the authority may fall to someone else by default under Florida’s health care proxy law. This may lead to negative consequences which can easily be avoided by having these documents in place.
It is especially important for same sex couples and domestic partners to have advance directives. It is also important for parents to grant health care decision-making authorities to other responsible individuals for their minor children. And college students should make out advance directives so that health care professionals will be willing to communicate with parents when there’s a medical emergency.