Elder Law

Answers to the 5 Top Questions about Advance Directives

Every person has the right to make his or her own decisions about his or her medical care, including the right to refuse medical treatment.  Florida law protects that right, and you can ensure that your wishes are expressed by drafting and executing a health care Advance Directive so you can exercise that fundamental right.  

Specifically, Florida law recognizes your ability to make an Advance Directive telling your doctor to provide, withhold, or withdraw life-prolonging procedures; to select another person to make medical care decisions for you if you are unable to communicate them, and to designate whether you wish to donate organs after you pass away.  

Accordingly, this article will discuss the 5 top questions about Advance Directives.  Remember, to ensure that you think of everything with regard to your Advance Directives, it would be a good idea to consult with experienced elder law attorneys in Palm Beach County.  

In that vein, we invite you to contact Doane & Doane for a free consultation.  We have been elder law attorneys in Palm Beach County for many years. And we are happy to leverage our solid elder law experience to help you draft and execute comprehensive Advance Directives.    

What are Advance Directives?

Advance Directives are legal documents that allow you to express – in advance – your wishes about important end-of-life decisions if you are physically unable to speak for yourself at a critical time.  In essence, your Advance Directives consist of a (i) living will, and (ii) a medical power of attorney. Under Florida law, an Advance Directive must be signed in the presence of two adult witnesses, who also must sign the document.  The Florida Advance Directive does not need to be notarized. One of the witnesses cannot be your spouse or a blood relative.  

What is a Living Will?

A living will allows you to state your wishes about health care if you are in a persistent vegetative state, have an end-stage condition, or develop a terminal condition.  

The living will is triggered at the point when your physician finds that you have one of those conditions, and you can no longer make your own health care decisions.  You also can express your organ donation wishes in a living will.

What is a Medical Power of Attorney?

The Advance Directive called the medical power of attorney is a document that allows you to identify a person you trust who will make medical care decisions for you if you are permanently or temporarily unable to express or make medical decisions for yourself. 

A medical power of attorney can step in and make decisions on your medical care not only for end-of-life decisions, but for any medical treatment for which you cannot communicate your own wishes.  

Other names for a medical power of attorney include, “healthcare proxy,” “surrogate,” “appointment of a healthcare agent,” or “durable power of attorney for healthcare.”

Generally, medical power of attorney is triggered when your physician determines that you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions.

What Should I Consider in Selecting a Medical Power of Attorney?

First and foremost, your medical power of attorney should be someone you trust.  It can be a close family member or good friend. The key is that the person you select knows what your wishes are, and feels comfortable making medical decisions for you.  

It is always helpful to have ongoing conversations with your medical power of attorney about your end-of-life decisions.  That will go a long way in making sure that your medical power of attorney will be comfortable and confident making decisions on your behalf when the time comes.  It is also possible to select a second medical power of attorney in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.

What are My Main Considerations When It Comes to Preparing Advance Directives?

A little information about life-sustaining treatments is helpful to being able to make informed choices about your medical care.  That is because the heart of your Advance Directives will revolve around your choices about those life-sustaining treatments. Let’s discuss them briefly.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) covers various medical procedures aimed at fixing a cardiac arrest (when your heart stops), or respiratory arrest (when your breathing stops).  For cardiac arrest, the treatment is geared towards restoring your heart’s ability to function. For respiratory arrest, the treatment can include tubes to artificially restore your breathing.  

If you wish not to have CPR performed on you, then you can make a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order as part of your Advance Directive.  You would have your doctor sign your DNR so that he or she will honor it.

As part of a DNR order, you can direct whether you wish to have a Do Not Intubate (DNI) order as well.  Intubation is the placement of a tube into your nose or mouth in order to have your windpipe free to help you breathe.  A completed DNR order does not automatically mean it includes a DNI.

Further, artificial nutrition and hydration allows doctors to feed you and provide fluids to you if you are unable to take them by mouth.  Whether or not you want such treatment should also be considered when filling out your Advance Directives.   

Elder Law Attorneys in Palm Beach County Are Ready to Help You

No one likes to consider end-of-life matters, particularly making decisions in the event we are incapacitated in some way.  Those delicate matters, however, are important to consider to make sure that your body is treated as you wish. That is why it would be a good idea to consult with elder law attorneys in Palm Beach County who understand how significant and sensitive these issues are.  

We at Doane & Doane combine big firm resources and experience with the personal touch of a small, boutique firm.  We pride ourselves on offering the kind of one-on-one attention that clients need when it comes to Advance Directives and other elder law matters.  After almost two decades of practice, we have earned the reputation as one the most prominent elder law attorneys in Palm Beach County. Contact a Doane & Doane professional today by calling 561-656-0200.