If you become severely incapacitated, neither your physicians nor your family can read your mind to determine your medical preferences. In this context, advance directives protect you and your loved ones in the event you are longer able to handle your own medical decisions.
Keep reading to discover the legal purpose of an advance directive in Florida.
What Are Advance Directives? – The Fundamentals
An advance directive is a legal document in which you can express your wishes regarding medical care upon incapacitation or if you are no longer able to express yourself.
Therefore, these documents permit you to provide detailed instructions about the type of medical treatments you should or should not undergo, as well as granting a person legal authority to handle your medical affair on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
Generally, advance directives encompass situations involving a medical emergency, end-of-life care, life-sustaining (or life-prolonging) treatments, and other similar events.
Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes governs all the legal requirements associated with health care advance directives, including the appointment of health care surrogates, the use of life-prolonging procedures, what happens in the absence of advance directives, and anatomical gifts (e.g., organ donations).
In Florida, there are two main types of advance directives – living wills and health care surrogate designations.
What is the Legal Purpose of an Advance Directive in Florida? – The Main Types
A living will is a legal document that permits you to write down all your wishes regarding the type of medical treatment(s) you should or should not undergo in the event you become incapacitated or unable to communicate your wishes directly.
Not to be confused with a will, the main purpose of a living will is to provide specific instructions to guide your family and physicians about your medical wishes related to end-of-life care and life-sustaining treatments.
The legal scope of a living will may include, but is not limited to, the use of:
- Mechanical ventilation
- Antiviral medication
- Pain management medication
- Artificial nutrition and hydration (e.g., tube feeding)
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Palliative care
- Organ and tissue donations
Health Care Surrogate Designation
As provided by Florida Statutes §765.202 (1), a health care surrogate designation is a “written document designating a surrogate to make health care decisions for a principal or receive health information on behalf of a principal, or both.”
In essence, a health care surrogate is the person you grant authority to handle medical decision-making on your behalf if you become unable to do so. The level of authority granted to the surrogate depends on the provisions specified by the principal (the person creating the document).
What is the Legal Purpose of an Advance Directive in Florida? – Basic Execution Requirements
The validity of an advance directive depends on whether the document’s execution meets the requirements established by state law. Similar to a will, an advance directive must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document in the presence of each other.
As described by Florida Statutes §765.202 (2), “the person designated as surrogate shall not act as witness to the execution of the document designating the health care surrogate. At least one person who acts as a witness shall be neither the principal’s spouse nor blood relative.”