Designating a health care surrogate

A health care surrogate is a person who is authorized to make medical decisions for another person, called the principal, when he or she is unable to do so. He or she is required to act in the best interest of the principal if the principal becomes incapacitated and cannot communicate their wishes.

Choosing a healthcare surrogate

A health care surrogate must be an adult over the age of 18 and is often chosen because he or she is a trusted friend or relative and is a reliable person. The health care surrogate should be physically and mentally able to address the principal’s medical needs.

Although it is not required, it may be helpful for the health care surrogate to live nearby so he or she can quickly respond in an urgent situation. Health care surrogates need to be a strong advocate for the principal in situations where he or she believes a medical provider’s recommendations do not align with the principal’s wishes.

The health care surrogate has many other responsibilities. He or she may consult with providers, can provide informed consent on the principal’s behalf, may authorize the principal’s transfer or admission to a healthcare facility and can approve the release of the principal’s medical records.

Florida rules

In Florida, the principal can designate an alternate health care surrogate who can take over for the original surrogate if he or she is unwilling, unable or unavailable to act. Also, the principal can designate a separate health care surrogate to consent to mental health treatment, if he or she chooses to do so.

The health care surrogate designation will remain in effect until the principal revokes it, unless the principal has stated a date when his or her powers will terminate.

An experienced attorney can provide advice about health care surrogate documents and answer questions.

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