Loune-Djenia Askew, Esq.
Nov 29, 2023
Florida and federal law gives every competent adult, 18 years or older, the right to make their own healthcare decisions, including the right to decide what medical care or treatment to accept, reject, or discontinue. If you do not want to receive certain types of treatment or you wish to name someone to make those health care decisions for you, you have the right to make those desires known to your doctor, health care provider, and the hospital.
Florida and federal law gives every competent adult, 18 years or older, the right to make their own healthcare decisions, including the right to decide what medical care or treatment to accept, reject, or discontinue. If you do not want to receive certain types of treatment or you wish to name someone to make those health care decisions for you, you have the right to make those desires known to your doctor, health care provider, and the hospital. Advanced Directives are documents which state your choices about medical treatment or name some to make decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to make these decisions or choices yourself. Florida law recognizes two (2) types of advance directives: 1) A living Will Declaration 2) A Designation of Health Care Surrogate.
Do I need an Advance Directive?
No you do not , it is entirely up to you whether you want to prepare any document. Even if you do not have one, you will receive medical care. However, there is a greater chance that you will receive more treatment or more procedures than you may want.
How do I know which treatment I want?
Your doctor(s) must inform you about your medical condition and what different treatments can do for you. Many treatments have serious side effects. Your doctor must give you that information, in language that you can understand, about the serious problems that medical treatment is likely to cause. Advance directives only take effect when you can no longer make your own health care decisions. As long as you can make an “informed consent”, your health care providers will rely on you and NOT on your advanced directives.
Informed consent means that you are able to understand the nature, extent and probable consequences of proposed medical treatments and you are able to make rational evaluations of the risks and benefits of those treatments as compared with the risk and benefits of alternate procedures AND you are able to communicate that understanding in any way.
Living Will Declaration
A Living Will Declaration is a document which tells your doctor or other health care providers whether or not you want life-prolonging treatments or procedures administered to you if you are in a terminal condition, a persistent vegetative state or end-stage condition. A Florida living will will go into effect when: 1) your doctor has a copy of it and 2) your doctor has concluded that you are no longer able to make your own health care decisions and, 3) your doctor and another doctor have determined that you are in a terminal condition, a persistent vegetative state or an end-stage condition.
Life prolonging treatments are treatments or procedures that are not expected to cure your terminal condition or make you feel better. “ Terminal condition” is defined as an incurable condition for which administration of medical treatment will only prolong the dying process and without administration of these treatments or procedures, death will occur in a relatively short period. “ Persistent Vegetative state” means a patient is in a permanent coma or state of unconsciousness caused by either illness, injury or disease. “End-stage” is defined as an irreversible condition caused by injury, illness or disease which results in severe and permanent deterioration, incapacity and physical dependence, and to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, medical treatment would not be effective.
Designation of Health Care Surrogate (DHCS)
DHCS is a legal document which allows you to appoint another person to make medical decisions for you if you should become temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions yourself. You can appoint any adult to be your surrogate. You should select a person(s) knowledgeable about your wishes, values, religious belief, in whom you have trust and confidence, and who knows how you feel about health care. Florida law does not put any restrictions on who you can appoint as your surrogate. DHCS only becomes effective when you become temporarily or permanently unable to make your own health care decisions and your surrogate consents to start making those decisions.
Are there any decisions my surrogate cannot make?
Certain experimental treatment
Voluntary admission to a mental facility
If your doctor determines that you have regained the capacity to make or communicate health care decisions, then two things will happen: 1) Your surrogate’s authority will end, 2) Your consent will be required for treatment. If your doctor later determines that you no longer have the capacity to make or communicate health care decisions, then your surrogate’s authority will be restored.
Does DHCS have to be signed and witnessed?
Yes, you must sign and date it, then it must be witnessed by two (2) qualified adults. The following people CANNOT witness your signature of the DHCS: 1) the person appointed as your health care surrogate and 2) the person(s) appointed as your alternate health care surrogate(s).
For more information, contact our office at Askew & Associates, P.A. by calling 954-546-2699.
Disclaimer: this blog post is not intended to be legal advice. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns.