Although we might not enjoy thinking about a future wherein we cannot look after ourselves, it is important to make provisions in case that future becomes a reality. While you are still able, it is wise to assign a health care surrogate that you can trust to have your back. But what is a health care surrogate, and why should an attorney be involved in the process of appointing one?
What is a Health Care Surrogate?
One of the most fundamental human rights is that of self-determination – every competent adult has the right to make decisions concerning their body and their mental and physical well being. Consequently, in an attempt to ensure that this right is not lost when a person becomes incapacitated, the law allows them to appoint a health care surrogate to act on their behalf. According to Florida statute, once a physician designates in a medical file that a person is no longer able to give informed consent regarding their personal health, they are considered incapacitated. It is at this point that a health care surrogate will take over control of that person’s medical and health-related decisions. If the incapacitated person nominates a health care surrogate while they are still able to, this person will have the ability to provide, withdraw or withhold life-prolonging procedures.
Why Do I Need a Health Care Surrogate?
If you suddenly become incapacitated and do not have a health care surrogate, the Health Care Proxy statute becomes applicable. The elected proxy is often a spouse, parent, adult child or other relative. If no relatives are willing or able, a close friend or social worker can be elected. However, sometimes friends and family might not hold the same beliefs as us. In particular, religious beliefs in regards to life-prolonging procedures can be vastly different amongst family members, which is why appointing a health care surrogate that will honour your desires is a far better choice than hoping a health care proxy has your best interests at heart.
Why Do I Need an Attorney’s Assistance?
To start, you can’t just appoint a health care surrogate without their knowledge. The process of appointing a surrogate is slightly more complicated than simply writing out a will, which is why involving an attorney is the best course of action. The attorney, or other legal professional, will help you fill out the correct forms, witness and sign them properly. He or she will also be able to mediate any necessary discussions between you and the person you choose to be your health care surrogate, ensuring that both parties understand the responsibility and requirements properly.
An attorney will also be able to ensure that your wishes are legally binding. In same cases, a family member might challenge the decision of a chosen health care surrogate. In this regard it is very helpful to have involved an attorney in the case from the very beginning, as he or she will have ensured that every potential challenge to the legality of health care surrogate documents has been covered. In this way, an attorney will ensure that only the person you have chosen to be your health care surrogate will make any decisions regarding your future wellbeing.
So regardless of your current well being, it is always best to prepare for a future scenario where you might not be capable of making the best choices for your own health. If, at any point, you require assistance appointing a health care surrogate or creating a legally binding document, do not hesitate to contact Gary I. Handin.