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Florida Wills & Estates

Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney

Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney

Florida law specifically provides for living wills and powers of attorney for health care needs.

If you are unable to make important medical decisions for yourself, who will make those decisions for you and how will the doctor and hospital know who is authorized to speak on your behalf?

When people think of planning in advance for health care decisions they usually think of living wills. However, living wills are limited. The laws in Florida laws are a legislative attempt to devise a method by which incapacitated individuals can exercise their qualified legal right to refuse unwanted treatment. With a living will, an individual provides treatment instructions regarding the types of medical treatment and care he or she wants to either receive or refuse at the end of life. This document is typically used by people to describe the point at which they would no longer desire certain types of life-prolonging medical treatment, but it may also document an individual’s desire for continuation of treatment. These documents and the related law are frequently misunderstood by the doctors, hospital and other health-care providers who treat an ill person. The way decisions are made in real life and the legal rules are often in conflict.

In Florida, a living will is the best-known and most widely used form of advance health care directive. Unfortunately, many consumers and their advisors fail to appreciate the significant limitations of the living will. Living wills are operative only after your attending physician has declared that you are in an end-stage medical condition or permanently unconscious. But many people who are not competent to make health decisions are not in an end-state medical condition or permanently unconscious. A living will is neither operative nor relevant with regard to questions about day-to-day care, placement, or treatment options, and the many other health decisions that need to be made for non-end of life patients who lack capacity.

There are too many situations in which following orders is not the best way to give care, and giving care always requires more in terms of resources, character, support, and judgment than any legal instrument can possibly provide.

A better planning tool for most people may be a Health Care Power of Attorney. As a result of the limitations of the living will, you should move beyond giving instructions and name a person who will be authorized to make health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity. Instead of attempting to specify what should be done, advance directives specify who should make crucial decisions on our behalf. Naming of a decision maker provides clear identification of who shoulders responsibility to act for the patient and makes it clear to physicians and others with whom they must deal. Such knowledge makes it much more likely that there will be the desirable discussions between family and professional caregivers at all important junctures of treatment and care.

A health care power of attorney is a legal document that authorizes a person of your choice to make health decisions for you if you ever lack capacity. Your agent can act whenever needed, even if you are not terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The document can include guidance as to your philosophy regarding end-of-life care and other situations that may arise.

Health care powers of attorney and living wills are tools that can be used to maintain some control over important health care decisions that are made for us. It is better for everyone, patients, health providers, and families, if these types advance directives are in place and you have specified who will decide for you.

If you find have questions about living wills, health care powers of attorney or any other estate planning issue, it is best to consult an attorney with substantial experience. There are so many different circumstances that a proper answer to your particular problem can only be obtained by a trained and experienced lawyer.

If you require the immediate services of a highly experienced and aggressive attorney, please call for a FREE CONSULTATION


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