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, such as 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. 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 (organ) donation after death.


What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a written statement about how you want medical decisions made if you are not be able to make them yourself and/or it can express your wish to make an anatomical (organ) donation after death. The problem is that once you become mentally incapacitated, it is too late--you cannot sign advance directives if you are mentally incapacitated, which is the time when you actually need them to take effect.

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.  Types of advance directives include:

  • Living Will
  • Health Care Surrogate Designation
  • Power of Attorney
  • An Anatomical Donation

We can help you decide which directive best suits your needs.

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is a written statement directing 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.

What is a Health Care Surrogate Designation?

A Health Care Surrogate is a person you name as your representative to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Your designation  can include instructions about any treatment you want or do not want, similar to a Living Will. 

What is an Anatomical Donation?

An anatomical donation, or organ donation, 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.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney?

Through a written document you can name another person to act on your behalf. That person is called your "attorney in fact". It is similar to a health care surrogate, but the person can be designated to perform a variety of activities (financial, legal, medical, etc.). However, the Power of Attorney takes effect immediately, meaning that your attorney-in-fact will have the ability to access your bank accounts, sell your real property, or whatever power you designated to that person in the power of attorney.

There is no legal requirement to complete an advance directive in the State of Florida.  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.  You may change or cancel an advance directive at any time.