Unfortunately, tragedy does not discriminate individuals by age, ethnicity, or social condition. Although it is hard to think about unpleasant situations, one should have legal arrangements in place to prepare for unexpected events such as incapacitation or terminal illness.
Florida law permits the designation of a health care surrogate to handle your medical decisions when you are unable to do so. Is it possible to designate multiple health care surrogates in Florida? Keep reading to find out.
What is a Health Care Surrogate Designation? – An Explanation
A health care surrogate designation is an advance directive that permits you to name a trusted person to handle your medical decision-making in the event you can no longer communicate or express your wishes.
Once the designation is executed, you (the principal) give a third party (the surrogate) the authority to talk to doctors on your behalf and manage your personal health care decisions. Depending on how the document is structured, the effectiveness of the designation may be immediate or only upon incapacitation.
Health Care Surrogate Designation Requirements – As Provided by Law
The validity of a health care surrogate designation depends on specific statutory requirements.
Florida Statutes §765.202 (1) requires that ” a written document designating a surrogate to make health care decisions for a principal or receive health information on behalf of a principal, or both, shall be signed by the principal in the presence of two subscribing adult witnesses.”
Florida Statutes §765.202 (2) adds that “the person designated as surrogate shall not act as witness to the execution of the document designating the health care surrogate. At least one person who acts as a witness shall be neither the principal’s spouse nor blood relative.”
If you are unable to sign the document as the principal, you must direct another person to sign your name on your behalf in the presence of two witnesses. Upon execution of the document, the surrogate must receive an exact copy of the designation.
Multiple Health Care Surrogates in Florida – The Verdict
As provided by Florida Statutes §765.202 (3), “a document designating a health care surrogate may also designate an alternate surrogate provided the designation is explicit.”
Hence, “the alternate surrogate may assume his or her duties as surrogate for the principal if the original surrogate is not willing, able, or reasonably available to perform his or her duties. The principal’s failure to designate an alternate surrogate shall not invalidate the designation of a surrogate.”
While there is no explicit prohibition regarding the designation of multiple health care surrogates in Florida, this is not the recommended approach.
For example, if you designate multiple surrogates, your doctor is supposed to communicate with each of them and get informed consent from multiple parties to determine what should be done upon incapacitation.
The ideal approach is to designate one trustworthy person to serve as a health care surrogate, and then designate an alternate surrogate as a “backup.”