A simple document that’s dated, signed, and witnessed can protect your future and tell your physicians and family members what type of care you wish to receive or prefer to avoid. These documents have several names, and they function in different ways. Living wills and advance directives provide a roadmap for your care. Health care surrogate designations designate a decision-making agent for your medical care. These estate and medical planning documents are increasingly important due to the growing geriatric population, our blended families, and the technologies that are available to save and extend lives. Each option has its own benefits and possible drawbacks.
An advance directive explains your wishes regarding life-prolonging and end-of-life care. A living will is the most common advance directive. Unlike a power of attorney that says who should make decisions, a living will tells your doctor exactly what type of treatment you do or do not want regarding terminal or end-stage conditions as defined under Florida law. This advanced planning eases the burden on loved ones who must make a decision during a difficult time. Living wills are ideal for individuals who want to receive life-prolonging treatments, who do not want to receive this type of care, or who have specific wishes regarding common treatments in serious medical scenarios.
Under certain circumstances, advance directives may also include do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders and physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST). A DNR order must take a specific form (and even be on canary yellow paper) in Florida to be legally valid and is signed by your doctor; it is a doctor’s order. It is used if you do not wish to have CPR performed in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.
If you lose the capacity to make health care decisions, a surrogate can make those decisions in your place. The person with decision-making power can withdraw, withhold, or request life-sustaining or life-saving treatments.
If a surrogate has not been appointed in advance, the decision maker will be selected as per Florida law and may be an appointed guardian, the spouse, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, a relative, or a close friend or clergy to perform these duties. By planning in advance, you can select who will be your surrogate. Also, if someone is in a long-term relationship but not married, this document is even more critical if you prefer to have your partner as the person to carry out your personal wishes.
Advance planning documents require thorough consideration. If you want to create a health care plan, we can talk about your options. When you’re ready, we will finalize the documents and make sure that they are stored properly and executed as needed under Florida law to be effective. As long as you are still managing your care, advance planning documents can be altered or canceled at any time if you have a change of heart or if something has come up in your life.
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