A Health Care Proxy, also known as a “Health Care Power of Attorney,” is a legal document that allows an individual to appoint a person to make health care decisions on their behalf in the event that they become incapacitated. In Florida, this document is governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 765.
The purpose of a Health Care Proxy is to ensure that an individual’s health care wishes are respected even if they are unable to communicate them. The appointed representative, known as an “agent,” is given the authority to make decisions about the individual’s medical treatment, including the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. This allows an individual to plan for the possibility of incapacity and to have control over their own health care decisions.
Example 1: Mr. Johnson is a 75 years old man who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He is worried that he may not be able to make decisions about his own care in the future as the disease progresses. He executes a Health Care Proxy, which appoints his son as his agent. This allows Mr. Johnson to have peace of mind knowing that his son will make health care decisions that are in line with his wishes, should he be unable to do so himself in the future.
Example 2: Mrs. Smith is a 60-year-old woman who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She knows that she may not be able to make decisions about her own care as her illness progresses. She executes a Health Care Proxy, which appoints her daughter as her agent. Through this document, she is able to provide instructions to her daughter about the types of medical treatments she would or wouldn’t want to receive, and her daughter can make decisions on her behalf in line with her wishes, even if she is unable to communicate them.
A Health Care Proxy only becomes effective when an individual is incapacitated and unable to make their own health care decisions. Until that time, an individual retains the right to make their own health care decisions. Additionally, it is important to keep the Health Care Proxy up to date, as an individual’s wishes and preferences may change over time.
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