Florida law grants every adult the right to make certain decisions about
his or her medical treatment.* You have the right, under certain conditions,
to decide whether to accept or reject medical treatment and other procedures
that would prolong your life artificially. The law also ensures your rights
and personal wishes are respected even if you are too sick to make your
In Florida, there are three kinds of Advance Directive documents:
Another decision you can make in advance is organ donation.
*The legal basis for these rights can be found in the Florida Statutes:
Life-Prolonging Procedure Act, Chapter 765; Durable Power of Attorney;
Section 709.08; and Court Appointed Guardianship., Chapter 744; and in
the Florida Supreme Court decision on the constitutional right of privacy,
Guardianship of Estelle Browning, 1990.
A Living Will (or Declaration) states that
you do not want to be kept alive by medical treatment when you have
a terminal or end-stage illness or are in a persistent vegetative
state, and are no longer able to decide matters for yourself. The
Living Will spells out your wishes regarding the withholding or
withdrawing of life-prolonging measures when there can be no hope
of recovery, as certified by two physicians. Medicines or medical
procedures necessary to provide comfort or alleviate pain would
continue to be provided.
The Living Will requires two witnesses, one of whom is not a spouse or
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A designated Health Care Surrogate document is an Advance Directive which
specifically allows you to name another person to make medical decisions
for you anytime you become unable to make them yourself.
Your Surrogate may consult with health care providers and give informed
consent to perform those medical and surgical procedures that he or she
believes you would have agreed to under the circumstances.
The Health Care Surrogate requires two witnesses, one of whom is not
a spouse or blood relative. The Surrogate may not serve as a witness.
This document is very similar to the Health Care Surrogate. It is usually
written by an attorney and gives your decision-making power for your medical
decisions to someone else. It can be specific as to what is covered, such
as withholding or withdrawing life support, provision for food or water,
etc. This document must be notarized and witnessed by two individuals,
at least one of whom is not a spouse or blood relative.
You can request an organ donation card from TransLife - the organ recovery
agency in Central Florida (call 676-1613 or 800-443-6667) - or any
of the other 65 organ recovery agencies throughout the U.S. to document
your wishes to make a gift of organs or tissue. You can also document
your wishes on your Florida Drivers License. Organ/tissue donation
is gift of life and is possible for people of all ages. All costs
associated with organ/tissue donation are paid by the donor program,
not by the donor's family. More
More about Advance Directives
Hospitals and nursing homes are now required to ask patients if they
have any type of Advance Directive. You will need to bring your Advance
Directive documents to the hospital with you for each admission.
You will be accepted for care whether or not you have an Advance Directive.
Should you become incapable of making medical decisions during your hospitalization
and you do not have a Surrogate, the hospital is required to find someone
(a Proxy) to make decisions for you. The authority of the Proxy is not
as broad as that of the Surrogate.
Upon admission to the hospital, after you reach your care area, your
physician and nurse will confer and develop a plan to implement your Advance
Directives during your hospital stay.
If you have any questions regarding Advance Directives, your physician,
nurse, social worker, pastoral care, or Ethics Committee will be happy
to assist you. Health First has forms for Living Wills and Healthcare
Surrogates available on the nursing units.
It's a good idea to name a replacement in case your first choice becomes
unwilling or unable to do so.
It's Health First's policy to honor patients' rights to make decisions
about their medical care. This includes the right to accept or refuse
medical or surgical treatment and the right to formulate Advance Directives.
Please keep the following in mind for all Advance Directives:
- Discuss any Advance Directives with your physician, family, and
friends as appropriate.
- Bring your documents to the hospital for every admission.
- You may change or revoke your Advance Directive(s); however, these
changes do not go into effect until you communicate them to your healthcare
- Keep your Advance Directive(s) readily available (not in a safety
deposit box) and make sure your family members know where they are.
Give a copy to your physician, family, and/or friends who may be available
- Living Will and Designate Health Care Surrogate forms are available
from Health First.
- If at any time during your hospitalization, a hospital policy interferes
with your written wishes, the situation will be discussed with you
or your surrogate.
- If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your physician,
nurse, social worker, or call Health First's Department of Pastoral
Care or Ethics Committee at 434-7183 (South Brevard) or 868-2718 (Central