HEALTH CARE DECISIONS…WHY YOU NEED A SURROGATE?
No one can predict when a serious illness or accident might occur. When it does, you may need someone else to speak or make health care decisions for you. If you plan, you can increase the chances that you will receive timely medical treatment.
In Florida, you can name someone to be your “Health Care Surrogate”. Your surrogate is the person you appoint to make health care decisions for you if you are unable or do not want to make them yourself. These decisions should be based on your personal values and wishes.
It is important to name your choice of a surrogate in writing. The writing is in a form often called an “advance directive”. Chapter 765, Florida statutes sets forth the requirements in Florida.
While there are many written and on-line resources to guide you and your loved ones in having a conversation about these issues, you may find it helpful to review the following when thinking about and discussing your advance directives.
1.)WHAT ARE THE THINGS I WANT MY HEALTH CARE SURROGATE TO KNOW?
The selection of your surrogate should be considered carefully, as your surrogate will have the ultimate decision making authority once this document goes into effect, in most instances after you are no longer able to make your own decisions. While the goal is for your surrogate to make decisions in keeping with your preferences (and in the majority of circumstances that is what happens), please know that the law does allow your surrogate to make decisions to direct or refuse health care interventions or withdraw treatment.
Your surrogate will need to think about conversations you have had, your personality, and how you handled important health care issues in the past. Therefore, it is important to talk with your surrogate and your family about such things as:
(i) What is most important to you in your life?
(ii) How important is it to you to avoid pain and suffering?
(iii) If you have to choose, it is more important to you to live as long as possible, or to avoid prolonged suffering or disability?
(iv) Would you rather be at home or in a hospital for the last days or weeks of your life?
(v) Do you have religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs that you want your surrogate and others to consider?
(vi) Do you wish to make a significant contribution to medical science after your death through organ or whole body donation?
(vii) Do you have a living will, that contains your specific wishes about health care that is only delaying your death? Make sure your surrogate agrees to honor the wishes expressed in your advance directive.
2.WHAT KIND OF DECISIONS CAN MY SURROGATE MAKE?
If there is ever a period of time when your physician determines that you cannot make your own health care decisions, or if you do not want to make your own decisions, some of the decisions your surrogate could make are to:
(i) Talk with physicians and other health care providers about your condition.
(ii) See medical records and approve who else can see them.
(iii) Give permission or medical tests, medicines, surgery, or other treatments.