A simple document that’s dated, signed, and witnessed can protect your future and tell your physicians and family members what type of care you wish to receive or prefer to avoid. These documents have several names, and they function in different ways. Living wills and advance directives provide a roadmap for your care. Health care surrogate documents (known as a medical power of attorney in Texas) designate a decision-making agent. These estate and medical planning documents are increasingly important due to the growing geriatric population, our blended families, and the technologies that are available to save and extend lives. Each option has its own benefits and possible drawbacks.
An advance directive explains your wishes regarding life-prolonging and end-of-life care. A living will is the most common advance directive. Unlike a power of attorney that says who should make decisions, a living will tells your doctor exactly what type of treatment you do or do not want regarding terminal or end-stage conditions as defined under Florida law. This advanced planning eases the burden on loved ones who must make a decision during a difficult time. Living wills are ideal for individuals who want to receive life-prolonging treatments, who do not want to receive this type of care, or who have specific wishes regarding common treatments in serious medical scenarios.
Under certain circumstances, advance directives may also include do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders and physician orders for life-sustaining treatment (POLST). A DNR order must take a specific form in Florida and in Texas to be legally valid. It is used if you do not wish to have CPR performed in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest.
Both Florida and Texas are developing states regarding the Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). The POLST is a legal document that specifies the type of care you want at end of life and is signed by your physician. Texas uses a Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST) form. These physician orders are advanced from a living will and are used only when someone is near the end of life. The POLST/MOST spells out the types of treatments you prefer to receive, such as IV fluids, feeding tubes, or comfort measures only and provides hospice information.
Health Care Surrogates | Medical Powers of Attorney
If you lose the capacity to make health care decisions, a surrogate can make those decisions in your place. The person with decision-making power can withdraw, withhold, or request life-sustaining or life-saving treatments.
If a surrogate has not been appointed in advance, the decision maker will be selected as per state law and may be an appointed guardian, the spouse, an adult child, a parent, a sibling, a relative, or a close friend or clergy to perform these duties. By planning in advance, you can select who will be your surrogate. Also, if someone is in a long-term relationship but not married, this document is even more critical if you prefer to have your partner as the person to carry out your personal wishes.
Working with an Attorney
Advance planning documents require thorough consideration. If you want to create a health care plan, we can talk about your options. When you’re ready, we will finalize the documents and make sure that they are stored properly and executed as needed under Florida or Texas law to be effective. As long as you are still managing your care, advance planning documents can be altered or canceled at any time if you have a change of heart or if something has come up in your life.
As an estate-planning attorney, I work one-on-one with individuals and together with families. I’m available to create health care planning documents for you, a family member, or a loved one who needs extra care. If you have any questions, feel free to contact my office at any time.