Planning for future health care needs involves understanding the role of a “health care surrogate.” In Florida, a health care surrogate is a designated individual entrusted to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. It is categorized under advance directives and ensures your health care preferences are respected even when you cannot express them.
Defining a health care surrogate
A health care surrogate, also known as a health care proxy or agent, acts based on your wishes outlined in an advance directive. This person, whom you trust, is authorized to make critical health care decisions when you are unable to do so. The scope of decisions includes consent, refusal or withdrawal of medical care, authorizing admissions or discharges, handling health care providers and accessing medical records.
Appointing a health care surrogate in Florida
To appoint a health care surrogate in Florida, complete the “Designation of Health Care Surrogate” form. This document, available on the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration’s website, can also be drafted with the assistance of an attorney.
Key components of the form include naming the health care surrogate and providing contact information. It includes designating an alternate surrogate in case the primary one is unavailable and specifying limitations or instructions for the surrogate.
Sign and date the form in the presence of two adult witnesses, who cannot be a spouse or blood relatives. Copies of the form should be distributed to the health care surrogate, alternate surrogate, doctor and relevant health care providers.
Role and responsibilities of a health care surrogate
The responsibilities of a health care surrogate in Florida vary based on the granted authority and the situation. Generally, they should communicate with health care providers about the individual’s condition and treatment options. They review medical records and seek clarification when necessary.
They make informed decisions in the individual’s best interest or according to their expressed wishes, and they uphold privacy and confidentiality. Surrogates advocate for the individual’s rights and preferences and maintain a record of decisions and their rationale.
The health care surrogate’s authority comes into effect when the individual is deemed incapable of making their own health care decisions. However, if the individual regains capacity, they can resume decision-making and revoke the surrogate’s authority.
Significance of having a health care surrogate
Appointing a health care surrogate provides reassurance that someone trusted will make medical decisions in case of incapacitation. It helps prevent conflicts among family, friends or health care providers who may have differing opinions on the individual’s best interests. Additionally, a health care surrogate aids in avoiding unwanted or unnecessary medical interventions that might not align with the individual’s values or goals, as outlined in their advance directive.