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What is a healthcare surrogate?

Under Florida law, there are many ways to protect yourself in case of a medical emergency. While people may think that doctors are able to make important decisions, often the patients have the final say over medical care and treatment. If patients are not able to make these decisions, there can be questions about how an individual would like to be treated in any given case. In order to alleviate any potential questions, people are encouraged to create a comprehensive healthcare strategy as part of their advanced estate planning.

In a previous post, this blog discussed the durable power of attorney. With a durable power of attorney, you can assign someone to make a decision about whether you should stay on life support. However, there are other healthcare planning tools that can be useful should you not be able to make your own decisions -- like a healthcare surrogate.

A healthcare surrogate, like assigning a durable power of attorney, is a person that has been assigned to make healthcare decisions in your absence. A healthcare surrogate has wide powers and can determine the course of treatment in a particular situation if you are unable to make the decision. The healthcare surrogate will work with your doctors and make decisions based on how you would likely make them if you could.

A healthcare surrogate can be used in conjunction with a living will which can let doctors know how they should proceed should you need life support or other life prolonging procedures. This will apply in the case of terminal conditions.

Florida residents will need to decide for themselves which estate planning tools are right for them. An attorney can help to provide specific legal advice -- which this blog post cannot -- to help people make these important decisions.

Source: Florida Bar, "LIVING WILLS AND HEALTH CARE ADVANCE DIRECTIVES: FAQs," accessed Jan. 12, 2015

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