Florida Living Will Explained

Reasons To Make a Living Will in Florida

Florida Living Will: If we learned anything from Terri Schiavo’s story we should have learned that everyone needs a Living Will and Advanced Healthcare Directive. In 1990, Terri Schiavo, at only 26 years old, collapsed. For fifteen years Schiavo was kept alive through life support -- she could breathe on her own, but little else.

Years of court battles between Terri Schiavo’s husband, Michael; and her parents finally ended with the withdrawal of her feeding tube; and her death from starvation and dehydration. Most of us consider being kept alive by artificial means a fate worse than death. Yet few people have formally made their wishes known.

Living Wills in Florida

The Florida Senate posted the following information on their site, http://www.flsenate.gov/

“The unfortunate events dealt with during a special session of the Florida Legislature have brought to light the importance of being prepared for unforeseen health complications.

While these types of decisions are never easy, it is better to be prepared in the event that you find yourself in a similar situation.

Please consider completing the Living Will and Designation of Health Care Surrogate available below, and sharing a copy with your spouse or loved one, and your doctor. These documents will be provided on the Senate's website free of charge from now on.

The Florida Senate hopes that you and yours will never have to suffer through such a difficult decision as this one, but erring on the side of caution, we hope you will take the opportunity to fill out these forms and keep them with your personal and medical records for you and your family's protection.”

Florida Living Will Laws

Like many other states in the United States, Florida has a unique set of laws regarding the creation of living wills. In fact, the Florida Senate advocates the creation of a living will.

They also recommend the posting of a living will in medical records and sharing the document with a spouse and family. Further information on Florida law regarding living wills can be found at the Florida Senate website, or by contacting an attorney that is familiar with Florida law.

Sections 765.302-303 of Florida statutes explain the procedure for making a Florida living will.

First, the statute states that any competent adult can make the decision to create a living will at any time. In addition, two witnesses that are not blood relatives of the person filling out the will must sign the document.

The law even allows someone to sign for the primary person the will is about if the primary person is unable to sign. The individual doing the signing must sign in the primary’s signature. Next, the statute states that a person must inform his or her physician about the living will.

Someone close to the primary can also do this if they are incapacitated. In addition, once a physician or medical facility receives a copy of the Florida living will, they must put it in the patient’s medical records. Directly after section 765.302, in section 765.303, is a suggested form for a living will.

This form is not mandatory, but is suggested by the Florida legislature. This form is easy to follow and somewhat self-explanatory, but as mentioned above, it is a good idea to consult an attorney before filling out this document and submitting it for inclusion in medical records.

Directly following the Florida living will information and sample living will form, in section 765.304, the legislature explains procedures for a living will. It begins by explaining that in the event no surrogate is listed, a physician can follow the living will.

Florida Living Will Surrogate

A surrogate is someone listed on the living will itself or by designation using another document. The surrogate’s job is to make decisions for the person unable to make decisions and carry out the living will.

In the absence of a surrogate, if the family is at odds with the physician’s decision to withhold or withdraw medical care based on the living will, then the physician is not allowed to carry out their decision until it is reviewed. However, if the family does not seek a review, then after seven days, the physician can follow the Florida living will instructions.

This process may seem involved and scary, but it is designed with everyone’s best interest in mind. Before a physician can seek to follow a living will, they must determine that a person does not have a reasonable chance of recovery.

To this end, they must certify a person has a terminal condition, an end-stage condition, or is already in a persistent vegetative state. In addition, the physician must consider anything that was previously in writing or spoken by another doctor before making that decision. In other words, all avenues are reviewed and considered before they will even consider a living will.

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