Health Care Advance Directives
Health Care Advance Directives information below is also available as a PDF download.To access the document(s)
Adobe Reader® must be installed on your computer. If you do not have
Adobe Reader ®, you can download it for free by clicking
Every competent adult has the right to make decisions concerning his or
her own health, including the right to choose or refuse medical treatment.
When a person becomes unable to make decisions due to a physical or mental
change, such as being in a coma or developing dementia (like Alzheimer's
disease), they are considered incapacitated. To make sure that an incapacitated
person's decisions about health care will still be respected, the
Florida legislature enacted legislation pertaining to health care advance
directives (Chapter 765, Florida Statutes). The law recognizes the right
of a competent adult to make an advance directive instructing his or her
physician to provide, withhold, or withdraw life-prolonging procedures;
to designate another individual to make treatment decisions if the person
becomes unable to make his or her own decisions; and/or to indicate the
desire to make an anatomical donation after death.
By law hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospices, and health
maintenance organizations (HMOs) are required to provide their patients
with written information, such as this pamphlet, concerning health care
advance directives. The state rules that require this include 58A-2.0232,
59A-3.254, 59A- 4.106, 59A-8.0245, and 59A-12.013, Florida Administrative Code.
Questions About Health Care Advance Directives
It is a written or oral statement about how you want medical decisions
made should you not be able to make them yourself and/or it can express
your wish to make an anatomical donation after death. Some people make
advance directives when they are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.
Others put their wishes into writing while they are healthy, often as
part of their estate planning.
Three types of advance directives are:
- A Living Will
- A Health Care Surrogate Designation
- An Anatomical Donation
You might choose to complete one, two, or all three of these forms. This
pamphlet provides information to help you decide what will best serve
What is a living will?
It is a written or oral statement of the kind of medical care you want
or do not want if you become unable to make your own decisions. It is
called a living will because it takes effect while you are still living.
You may wish to speak to your health care provider or attorney to be certain
you have completed the living will in a way that your wishes will be understood.
What is a health care surrogate designation?
It is a document naming another person as your representative to make medical
decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. You can include
instructions about any treatment you want or do not want, similar to a
living will. You can also designate an alternate surrogate.
Which is best?
Depending on your individual needs you may wish to complete any one or
a combination of the three types of advance directives.
What is an anatomical donation?
It is a document that indicates your wish to donate, at death, all or part
of your body. This can be an organ and tissue donation to persons in need,
or donation of your body for training of health care workers. You can
indicate your choice to be an organ donor by designating it on your driver's
license or state identification card (at your nearest driver's license
office), signing a uniform donor form (seen elsewhere in this pamphlet),
or expressing your wish in a living will.
Am I required to have an advance directive under Florida law?
No, there is no legal requirement to complete an advance directive. However,
if you have not made an advance directive, decisions about your health
care or an anatomical donation may be made for you by a court-appointed
guardian, your wife or husband, your adult child, your parent, your adult
sibling, an adult relative, or a close friend. The person making decisions
for you may or may not be aware of your wishes. When you make an advance
directive, and discuss it with the significant people in your life, it
will better assure that your wishes will be carried out the way you want.
Must an attorney prepare the advance directive?
No, the procedures are simple and do not require an attorney, though you
may choose to consult one. However, an advance directive, whether it is
a written document or an oral statement, needs to be witnessed by two
individuals. At least one of the witnesses cannot be a spouse or a blood relative.
Where can I find advance directive forms?
Florida law provides a sample of each of the following forms: a living
will, a health care surrogate, and an anatomical donation. Elsewhere in
this web site we have included sample forms as well as resources where
you can find more information and other types of advance directive forms.
Can I change my mind after I write an advance directive?
Yes, you may change or cancel an advance directive at any time. Any changes
should be written, signed and dated. However, you can also change an advance
directive by oral statement; physical destruction of the advance directive;
or by writing a new advance directive.
If your driver's license or state identification card indicates you
are an organ donor, but you no longer want this designation, contact the
nearest driver's license office to cancel the donor designation and
a new license or card will be issued to you.
What if I have filled out an advance directive in another state and need
treatment in Florida?
An advance directive completed in another state, as described in that state's
law, can be honored in Florida. What should I do with my advance directive
if I choose to have one?
If you designate a health care surrogate and an alternate surrogate be
sure to ask them if they agree to take this responsibility, discuss how
you would like matters handled, and give them a copy of the document.
Make sure that your health care provider, attorney, and the significant
persons in your life know that you have an advance directive and where
it is located. You also may want to give them a copy.
Set up a file where you can keep a copy of your advance directive (and
other important paperwork). Some people keep original papers in a bank
safety deposit box. If you do, you may want to keep copies at your house
or information concerning the location of your safety deposit box.
Keep a card or note in your purse or wallet that states that you have an
advance directive and where it is located.
If you change your advance directive, make sure your health care provider,
attorney and the significant persons in your life have the latest copy.
If you have questions about your advance directive you may want to discuss
these with your health care provider, attorney, or the significant persons
in your life.
Additional Information Regarding Health Care Advance Directives
Before making a decision about advance directives you might want to consider
additional options and other sources of information, including the following:
As an alternative to a health care surrogate, or in addition to, you might
want to designate a durable power of attorney. Through a written document
you can name another person to act on your behalf. It is similar to a
health care surrogate, but the person can be designated to perform a variety
of activities (financial, legal, medical, etc.). You can consult an attorney
for further information or read Chapter 709, Florida Statutes.
If you choose someone as your durable power of attorney be sure to ask
the person if he or she will agree to take this responsibility, discuss
how you would like matters handled, and give the person a copy of the document.
If you are terminally ill (or if you have a loved one who is in a persistent
vegetative state) you may want to consider having a pre-hospital Do Not
Resuscitate Order (DNRO). A DNRO identifies people who do not wish to
be resuscitated from respiratory or cardiac arrest. The pre-hospital DNRO
is a specific yellow form available from the Florida Department of Health
(DOH). Your attorney, health care provider, or an ambulance service may
also have copies available for your use. You, or your legal representative,
and your physician sign the DNRO form. More information is available on
the DOH website, www.doh.state.fl.us or www.MyFlorida.com (type DNRO in
these website search engines) or call (850) 245-4440.
When you are admitted to a hospital the pre-hospital DNRO may be used during
your hospital stay or the hospital may have its own form and procedure
for documenting a Do Not Resuscitate Order.
If a person chooses to donate, after death, his or her body for medical
training and research the donation will be coordinated by the Anatomical
Board of the State of Florida. You, or your survivors, must arrange with
a local funeral home, and pay, for a preliminary embalming and transportation
of the body to the Anatomical Board located in Gainesville, Florida. After
being used for medical education or research, the body will ordinarily
be cremated. The cremains will be returned to the loved ones, if requested
at the time of donation, or the Anatomical Board will spread the cremains
over the Gulf of Mexico. For further information contact the Anatomical
Board of the State of Florida at (800) 628-2594 or www.med.ufl.edu/anatbd.
If you would like to read more about organ and tissue donation to persons
in need you can view the Agency for Health Care Administration's website
http://ahca.myflorida.com (Click on "Site Map" then scroll down
to "Organ Donors") or the federal government site www.organdonor.gov.
If you have further questions you may want to talk with your health care provider.
Various organizations also make advance directive forms available. One
such document is "Five Wishes" that includes a living will and
a health care surrogate designation. "Five Wishes" gives you
the opportunity to specify if you want tube feeding, assistance with breathing,
pain medication, and other details that might bring you comfort such as
what kind of music you might like to hear, among other things. You can
find out more at:
Aging with Dignity
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
(Type "advance directives" in the website's search engine)Your
local hospital, nursing home, hospice, home health agency, and your attorney
or health care provider may be able to assist you with forms or further
Brochure: End of Life Issues
www.floridahealthfinder.gov (Under Brochures and Guides)