By: Katina H. Pantazis, Esq.

Published at

18 May 2024

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Designation of Healthcare Surrogate: Empowering Medical Decision-Making in Florida

In life's unpredictable journey, there may come a time when we cannot make healthcare decisions for ourselves due to illness, injury, or incapacitation. In Florida, individuals can appoint a trusted healthcare surrogate to advocate for their medical preferences and honor their wishes. Let's explore the significance of appointing the Designation of Healthcare Surrogate in Florida, its key components, and why it is a crucial aspect of advance care planning.

Key Take-Aways
  1. A Designation of a Healthcare Surrogate allows Floridians to appoint a trusted representative for medical decisions in case of medical incapacity.
  2. A principal is an individual who creates an advanced healthcare directive.
  3. A surrogate or healthcare proxy is a person appointed by the principal in their advance healthcare directive to make decisions on their behalf in case of the principal's medical incapacity.
  4. Key components for the designation of florida advance medical directives include appointing a healthcare proxy, defining the scope of authority, and providing medical preferences.
  5. Legal requirements for health care proxy appointments involve signing with two witnesses or notarization.
  6. These Florida advance medical directives documents ensure continuity of care, empower autonomy and comply with state laws.

Understanding the Designation of Healthcare Surrogate:

A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate, a medical power of attorney in some parts of Florida. A legal document that allows individuals to appoint a trusted representative to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated or unable to communicate their wishes
Also known as, a healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney, this document enables individuals to assert their autonomy and ensure their preferences for medical treatment are respected. It is an incapacity planning document that designates an individual to make decisions on your behalf.  

Who is a Principal and a Surrogate / Health Care Proxy?  

In the context of advance health care directives, the terms "principal" and "surrogate" play crucial roles in the decision-making regarding medical treatment when the individual cannot communicate their wishes themselves. Here's an explanation of their relationship:

1. Principal:  

The "principal" is the person who creates an advanced health care directive. 
This individual is also known as the "declarant" or the "patient." 
The principal specifies their medical treatment preferences, appoints a healthcare proxy or agent to make decisions on their behalf, and outlines their wishes regarding healthcare if they become incapacitated or unable to communicate their choices.

2. Surrogate:

The "surrogate" is the person appointed by the principal in the advance directive to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they fail to do so. 
The common names for these individuals are "healthcare agent" or "healthcare proxy." 
The surrogate's role is to advocate for the principal's wishes, as outlined in the advance directive, and make informed medical decisions based on those preferences.

Relationship of Principal and a Surrogate in the Health Care Directives
  1. The relationship between principal and surrogate in advance health care directives is based on trust and clear communication. The principal entrusts the surrogate ensuring their medical wishes are respected and followed if they become medically unfit. 
  2. The surrogate acts as a principal’s advocate, making decisions in alignment with the directives provided by the principal in the advance directive document.

Key Components of a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate:

  1. Appointment of Surrogate: The document identifies the individual (the surrogate) who will be authorized to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the person creating the document (the principal). The surrogate should be someone the principal trusts implicitly and understands their healthcare preferences and values. Ideally, the principal would select one or two alternate surrogates to act, should the first or second be unable/unwilling to do so.
  2. Scope of Authority: The Designation of Healthcare Surrogate outlines the surrogate's authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal. This may include decisions about medical treatments, surgeries, end-of-life care, and other healthcare interventions. A well-drafted Designation of Healthcare Surrogate should also include HIPAA authorization for the named surrogate.
  3. Preferences and Instructions: Individuals can guide their surrogates regarding their medical preferences, values, and beliefs. This may include preferences for life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, pain management, and palliative care.
  4. Legal Requirements: In Florida, a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate must be signed by the principal in the presence of two witnesses, neither of whom can be the appointed surrogate. Alternatively, the document can be notarized to ensure its legal validity.

Why Appointment of Healthcare Surrogate is Crucial in Florida:

In Florida, appointing a Healthcare proxy serves several important purposes:

  1. Ensuring Continuity of Care: By appointing a healthcare surrogate, individuals can ensure that their medical preferences and values are honored, even if they can not communicate directly due to incapacity.
  2. Empowering Autonomy: The Designation of a Healthcare Surrogate empowers individuals to assert their autonomy and control over their medical treatment, allowing them to make decisions consistent with their values and preferences, by selecting a surrogate they know and trust to make medical decisions for them or select an appropriate treatment plan consistent with their known values.
  3. Compliance with Legal Requirements: A legally valid advance directive for healthcare surrogates ensures that healthcare providers and institutions respect the surrogate's authority to make medical decisions on behalf of the principal, per Florida state laws.

Consulting with Healthcare Professionals:

Creating a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate is an important aspect of advanced care and estate planning that requires thoughtful consideration and consultation with healthcare professionals, including physicians and nurses. These professionals can provide guidance and support in documenting one's medical preferences and selecting an appropriate surrogate.


Designate Your Health Care Surrogate Today

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Let Florida's best estate planning attorney assist you in designating a healthcare surrogate to ensure your wishes are honored with compassion and expertise.


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In the journey of life, having a Designation of Healthcare Surrogate is a proactive step toward ensuring that one's medical preferences and values are respected, even in times of incapacity. By appointing a trusted representative to advocate for their healthcare wishes, individuals in Florida can assert their autonomy and ensure continuity of care following their values and beliefs. In the face of life's uncertainties, a surrogate decision-maker for health care offers clarity, peace of mind, and empowerment in navigating the complexities of medical decision-making.

Useful Resources: 

  1. Florida Durable Power of Attorney: Why it is important and what are the key components. 
  2. Top 5 Reasons Why Everyone Needs a Durable Power of Attorney

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