Medical directives or advance directives are documents that plan for your health care in the event that you are are mentally or physically incapacitated and cannot do it yourself. You must be suffering from a terminal condition for them to take effect. Because you have the right to determine end-of-life directives for yourself, you may need someone to carry those wishes out, whether a family member, friend or even a doctor. In Florida, two documents are considered advance directives: The Living Will and Designation of Health Care Surrogate.

The Importance of Medical Directives

Medical directives allow you to instruct your family and doctors what to do in the event that you no longer have the abilities to do so yourself. Whether you become incapacitated because of an illness or an accident, your wishes will be met as long as you have medical directives.

These directives should be kept in a safe place, plus the person you give authority to and your doctors should all have a copy. When you give a copy of your directives to the appropriate people, you should also verbalize your wishes to ensure that everyone understands your wishes.


Duties of the person you assign as a decision-maker in the event that you can no longer make your own medical decisions are extensive. Thus, you and the person you are asking to make these decisions need to understand exactly what you are asking. The person you name will:

  • Have access to and will receive all medical information about you;
  • Confer with your doctors and nurses;
  • Review your medical chart;
  • Ask questions and get explanations about your health situation;
  • Discuss any treatment options including whether you wish to continue life-sustaining treatment; and
  • Authorize any transfers to other medical facilities or transfers of care to another doctor or team of doctors, including nursing homes.

It is important that you make your wishes well-known while you are still able to make these decisions.

Living Will

A living will lets your doctors know whether you want life-sustaining procedures and under which conditions. The person you name as your health care surrogate and your doctors must abide by the wishes you include in your living will.

The living will includes instructions in the event that you have a terminal condition that will result in your death because the condition is irreversible or incurable, if you are diagnosed with a condition that you may not come out of and the doctors are reasonably certain that you will not wake up, or if you are diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and the doctors are reasonably sure that you will not regain consciousness.

Designation of Healthcare Surrogate

The designation of healthcare surrogate is the document that appoints another adult to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated. That person should know and understand your wishes, and you should be sure that the person you appoint will carry out your wishes. These include religious, cultural, moral and personal beliefs in addition to medical wishes. This is the person who will be making all of your medical decisions for you.

Advance Directives

Two main statutes guide advance directives. The first is the federal Patient Self-Determination Act and the second is Florida’s Health Care Advance Directive Act. The person you choose as your health care surrogate must be at least 18 years of age or an emancipated minor and must be of sound mind.

Though your advance directives do not need to be notarized to be legal, they will need to have two witnesses. The person you choose to be your surrogate cannot be a witness. Some people prefer to have these documents notarized in addition to having the witnesses sign. This may be important if you believe that another family member may interfere with your health care surrogate’s decisions made on your behalf.

Contact France Law Firm

If you are ready to create estate documents, including advance directives, contact France Law Firm to set up a consultation. Our attorneys will draft the documents you wish to instruct your health care surrogate of your wishes.