Plan Ahead With Advance Directives
Authored By: Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida
What is an advanced directive?
As you age, there are many decisions which you must make about the future. Planning ahead can help you protect your rights and make informed decisions about your health care, your property and your family. Making clear decisions about your life now, before illness and infirmity diminish your ability, allows you to ensure that your plans and choices will be carried out and can make it easier for your friends and family to help you in medical emergencies. There are several legal instruments which will allow you to plan ahead in Florida. These instruments are collectively called Advance Directives and Florida law contains a comprehensive Advance Directives statute providing an adult with three options for Advance Directives:
- A Living Will
- A Designation of a Health Care Surrogate
- An Anatomical Donation
An individual can execute one, two, or all three forms of Advance Directives. Federal law requires hospitals, long term care institutions, and skilled nursing facilities to advise patients of the existence of Advance Directives but an individual does not have to execute any form of Advance Directives to receive health care treatment. Medical facilities are not required to supply or prepare these documents for you. It is therefore important to make your decision about Advance Directives before going to a hospital or other medical care facility.
When you have either a Living Will or a Designation of a Health Care Surrogate, the physician and hospital must abide by the wishes expressed in those documents. A health care provider who refuses to comply with your wishes is obligated to make reasonable efforts to transfer you within seven days to another provider who will comply with your wishes. The law does not require a provider to act in a way contrary to his/her moral or ethical beliefs concerning life-prolonging procedures if you are not in an emergency condition, and if you have received written information upon admission informing you of the provider's policy regarding such moral or ethical beliefs. If there are problems with the provider's compliance to the Florida Advance Directive laws, your surrogate or someone on our behalf should seek the advice of an attorney.
What's a living will?
A Living Will is a written statement of the kind of medical care you want or do not want if you become terminally ill and you are unable to make your own decisions. You can ask that the doctors do everything possible to keep your body functioning for as long as possible or you can request that life-prolonging medical procedures be stopped. There are two general concepts that apply to Living Wills -- terminal illness and life-prolonging procedures.
What is a terminal illness?
A terminal illness is defined as:
- A condition caused by injury, disease, or illness from which there is no reasonable medical probability of recovery, and which, without treatment, can be expected to cause death;
- A persistent vegetative state characterized by a permanent and irreversible condition of unconsciousness in which there is:
- the absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior of any kind; and
- an inability to communicate or to interact purposefully with the environment;
- An end-stage condition caused by injury, disease or illness which has resulted in severe permanent deterioration indicated by incapacity and complete physical dependency, and for which to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, treatment of the irreversible condition would be medically ineffective.
In determining whether a terminal illness exists, the treating physician and at least one other consulting physician must separately examine the patient. The separate findings must be documented in the patient's medical record and signed by each examining physician before life-prolonging procedures may be withheld or withdrawn.
What are life prolonging measures?
- 1. Utilizes mechanical or other artificial means to sustain, restore, or supplant a spontaneous vital function; and
- 2. When applied to a patient in a terminal condition, serves only to prolong the process of dying.
What is a designation of a health care surrogate?
What is an anatomical donation?
What is a last will and testament?
Who can make a will?
What is the execution of a will?
Updated: May 8, 2017