Health Care Surrogate

Health Care Surrogate

Most of us live hectic lives. We rush from one task to another, trying to fit in as many activities as possible in our busy schedule. Completing tasks from our to-do lists gives us a sense of accomplishment and control. Pursuing our everyday goals leaves us little time to think of situations in which we do not have control over things and events surrounding us.

No matter how skilled you are and how well you coordinate different aspects of your life, no one has total control over what can happen to them. That is especially true in today’s world. We live in times of uncertainty. In the most recent past, we witnessed events no one could have imagined just a couple of years ago. The global pandemic caused millions of deaths, leaving tens of millions of others with severely damaged health.

Perhaps this is the right moment to contemplate finding yourself in a life-threatening situation, unable to communicate, express your wishes, or make important health-related decisions.

What is a Health Care Surrogate?

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A health care surrogate is a person you choose to act on your behalf in making health-related decisions or receiving health care information in situations when you are incapacitated. A health care surrogate acts as your agent or attorney-in-fact in matters related to your health. They communicate with medical professionals, navigate through the health care system, and make medical decisions instead of you in circumstances when you are unable to do so. Depending on the authority you give them, the surrogate can also act as your health care agent in temporary situations when you are partially incapacitated (under heavy medications or with transient amnesia).

Who Can Act as a Health Care Surrogate?

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Florida Statute 765.401 prescribes rules for situations when you do not have a health care surrogate. The list of health care proxies follows an order of priority.

The first individual on the list acts as your default health care surrogate. If a person from a prior class is reasonably unavailable, unwilling, or incompetent, the second person from the list acts as a proxy, in the following order:

  1. The judicially appointed guardian, acting as your advocate due to a developmental disability.
  2. Your spouse.
  3. Your adult child. If you have more than one adult child, more than half of your adult children who are reasonably available for consultation will act as your health care surrogates.
  4. Your parent.
  5. Your adult sibling. If you have more than one sibling, more than half of your adult siblings who are reasonably available for consultation will act as your health care proxies.
  6. Your adult relative. Your adult relatives can act as surrogates if they exhibit special care and concern for the patient, are familiar with your activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs, and maintain regular contact with you.
  7. Your close friend.
  8. A clinical social worker. The social worker must have a special license or graduate from a court-approved guardianship program. The law further requires that the proxy is not an employee of the provider and that the bioethics committee selects such a surrogate. A clinical social worker acting as a health care surrogate can make decisions to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging procedures only after being reviewed by the facility’s bioethics committee.

Who Should You Choose?

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To ensure your health care proxy is the right person, you should always designate them yourself and avoid possible misunderstandings between multiple surrogates. When considering who to choose, seek a responsible and reliable person, willing and able to act on your behalf in making health-related decisions. Next, always select a person in good physical and mental health with a proven record of making reasonable decisions in stressful situations. Finally, choose a person who you trust. Your health care surrogate should be close to you, share your philosophical and religious beliefs, or be familiar with them.

Designating a Health Care Surrogate

Blade and Blade PA

You can designate your health care proxy using medical power of attorney (POA), called a Designation of Health Carre Surrogate. Florida law requires you to sign the document before two witnesses, and we recommend it be notarized. The witnesses need to validate it by putting their signatures next to yours. Also, your designated health care surrogate cannot be one of the witnesses, and at least one of them must not be your relative.

An Alternate Surrogate

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You can never be sure if your designated surrogate will be available at a critical moment. That is why it is wise to select one (or even two) alternate surrogates to be at your disposal if the primary proxy is not available. The Florida default list applies only if your designated surrogates cannot act on your behalf.

Reach Out To Us

Blade and Blade PA

At Blade & Blade P.A., we care about your peace of mind. Knowing how important designating a health care surrogate is, we can help you make the best choice ensuring your designation complies with the legal requirements.

Reach out to us today to schedule your free consultation.