We have a fundamental right to govern our lives and live it how we choose. However, the mental capacity to govern our lives diminishes because of the inevitability of illness, severe trauma and aging. Florida law allows us to prepare for when that happens. According to Fla. Stat. §765.102, “every competent adult has the fundamental right to self-determination regarding decisions pertaining to his or her own health.” You can decide on your course of medical treatment. You can also refuse it. The key is you determine what happens to you. You can do this by establishing health care advance directives.
What are health care advance directives?
Health care advance directives are an individual’s instructions for medical treatments when they can no longer decide for themselves. It is a significant aspect of any estate plan. Advance directives can include the following:
- A living will: This document explicitly outlines your wishes about the care you will receive if you are in a persistent vegetative state, suffer from a terminal illness or have an end-stage condition. It expresses your intentions on life-sustaining measures. It includes the following: resuscitation orders, tube-feeding, the use of ventilators and dialysis machines, organ donation, and palliative care.
- A health care surrogate: A health care surrogate is a person you designate to make health care decisions on your behalf. You must thoroughly explain to your health care surrogate your medical wishes and values and how you want them to administer the authority you bestowed upon them. You may want to get it in writing so they remember. A health care surrogate can also apply for public health benefits and consent to hospital transfers.
- A durable power of attorney: You can give a durable power of attorney to grant someone the authority to act on your behalf. It is a legal document that gives them the power to make critical decisions for you without court intervention. It encompasses the financial, medical and legal aspects of your life. The person you grant a durable power of attorney to must be competent and honest. It should be someone you trust to give you peace of mind and protect the best interests of your loved ones.
The bills and liabilities do not go away when an individual suffers an incapacity. In fact, they may even accumulate. A durable power of attorney allows the person you name to make financial decisions to help alleviate the burden of these liabilities.
Your right to live the way you choose
Preparing for your incapacity is never easy, but it is your right to decide how you want to live, breathe and die. You should know your options and see which seems the most viable for your current and future circumstances.