Advance Directives FAQs
All adults in healthcare facilities such as hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, home healthcare agencies and health maintenance organizations, have certain rights under Florida law.
You have the right to fill out an "advance directive," explaining in advance what kind of treatment you want or do not want under special, serious medical conditions—conditions that would stop you from telling your doctor your choices. For example, if you are taken to a healthcare facility in a coma, would you want the facility staff to know your specific wishes about decisions regarding your treatment?
Here are the questions about advance directives that people ask most often:
What is an advance directive?
Two forms of advance directives are: Living Will and Healthcare Surrogate. An advance directive allows you to state your choices about healthcare and/or to name someone to make those choices for you if you become unable to make decisions about your own medical treatment. An advance directive enables you to make decisions about your future medical treatment.
What is a living will?
A living will generally states the kind of medical care you want or do not want if you become unable to make your own decisions. It is called a "living will" because it takes effect while you are still living. Florida law provides a suggested form for a living will. You may use it or some other form. You may wish to speak to your physician to be certain you have completed the living will in a way that your wishes will be understood.
What is a healthcare surrogate?
A "healthcare surrogate" designation is a signed, dated and witnessed paper naming another person - such as a husband, wife, adult child, other relative or friend - as your agent to make medical decisions for you if you should become unable to make them for yourself. You can include instructions about any treatment you want or do not want. Florida law provides a suggested form for designation of a healthcare surrogate. The form provided by Munroe Regional Medical Center follows guidelines set forth in Florida law. You may use this form or another form if you choose. You may also wish to name a second person to act as your surrogate in the event the first person you name is not available.
Is a living will or healthcare surrogate better?
You may wish to have both a living will and a surrogate. You can combine them into a single document that describes your treatment choices in a variety of situations and names someone to make decisions for you. For example, using the healthcare surrogate form, you can designate a surrogate and an alternate. In addition, you may write in any specific treatment you want or do not want. The wishes you have expressed in writing cannot be overridden by your surrogate. However, in situations where you have not specified a particular wish, the surrogate probably can make the decision you would have made. This is why it is very important to talk at length with your surrogate. Discuss how you feel about various medical treatments and issues, your religious beliefs and any other information you feel may help your surrogate make the decision you would have made.
Must I have an advance directive in Florida?
No, there is no legal requirement to complete an advance directive. However, if you have not made an advance directive or designated a healthcare surrogate, decisions will be made for you by a proxy appointed by the healthcare institution. The proxy will be a court appointed guardian, your spouse, your adult child, your parent, your adult sibling, an adult relative or a close friend and will be chosen in that order.
Can I change my mind after I made a living will or designate a surrogate?
Yes, you may change or cancel the documents at any time you choose to do so. Any change should be written, signed and dated. You can also change an advance directive by oral statement.
What if I have filled out an advance directive in another state and need treatment in Florida?
An advance directive completed in another state, in compliance with another state's laws, can be honored in Florida .
Where can I get an advance directive or living will?
Munroe is happy to provide advance directive information and a living will/healthcare surrogate form. English version | Spanish version
What do I do with my completed advance directives?
- If you have designated a healthcare surrogate, give a copy of the written designation form to that person.
- Give a copy of your advance directive to your physician for your medical file.
- Make sure your family knows about your advance directive and where the written forms are located.
- Keep a copy of your advance directive in a place where it can be easily found.
- Keep a card or note in your purse or wallet that says you have an advance directive and where it is.
- If you change your advance directive, make sure your physician, attorney and/or family has the latest copy.