Last Updated: March 19, 2024

Who Speaks for You When You Can’t?

When it comes to your health and well-being, who speaks for you when you cannot speak for yourself?

Suppose you are in an accident, have a stroke, or are otherwise incapacitated by illness or disease. Who will make medical decisions for you and ensure that the doctors, hospitals, and healthcare professionals carry out your wishes?

And if you choose someone to help, do they have the legal authority to act on your behalf?

This is an important question for everyone, but even more essential for older adults.

Every State is Different

Every state has different laws about medical rights and who can make them. Florida Senior Consulting helps Florida Seniors with assisted living and home health care options in Florida. So in this article, we will discuss Florida’s rights and laws.

 If you have questions about another state, please check those state laws. The American Bar Association has a directory if you need help finding your legal rights in your home state.

Medical Rights for Florida Seniors

Elderly couple reviewing medical documents

In Florida, you have the right to make your own medical decisions.

Florida law says that every competent Florida adult has the right to make decisions concerning their health. This includes the right to choose or refuse medical treatment.

If you become unable to make decisions due to a physical or mental change, like a coma, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another condition, you are considered incapacitated.

In Florida, your primary physician can determine if you are incapacitated.

Florida law ensures that an incapacitated person’s decisions about health care will still be respected, according to  Florida Statute 765. This statute covers your rights with Health Care Advance Directives, Health Care Surrogates, and more.

This statute recognizes several rights, including:

Advance Directives: You have the right to make an advance directive instructing your physician to provide, withhold, or withdraw life-prolonging procedures;

Designating Someone: You have the right to designate another person to be your Health Care Surrogate and make treatment decisions for you when you become unable to do so.

And Florida law states that you do not have to be incapacitated to elect a health care surrogate to make your decisions.

Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and Advance Directives

Living will vs power of attorney

Specific legal documents tell hospitals and doctors what you do and don’t want to be done for your medical care. And other documents let you give the authority to someone else to act for you with medical decisions.


For the forms, you might have heard the following names:

  • Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Power of Attorney
  • Living Will
  • Advance Directive


Depending on where you live, the person you choose to make decisions on your behalf may be called one of the following:

  • Health care proxy
  • Health care surrogate
  • Health care representative
  • Health care attorney-in-fact
  • Patient advocate

A health care power of attorney is one type of advance directive in which you name a person to make decisions for you when you are unable to do so.

In many states, this directive may also be called a durable power of attorney for health care or a health care proxy.

In Florida, the document most used is called a Health Care Advance Directive. The person to whom you give medical decision-making authority is called your Health Care Surrogate.

What is a Florida Advance Directive?

What is an advance directive

An advance directive is a written or oral statement about how you want medical decisions to be made when you can’t make them for yourself. You can also express your wish to make an anatomical donation after death.

While the Florida statute says an advance directive may be an oral statement, attorneys and healthcare professionals overwhelmingly advise clients and patients to put this in writing. There are many places online to get these forms, including here.

Some people make advance directives as part of their estate planning. Others make them when they are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

In Florida, the three types of advance directives are:

  • A Living Will
  • A Health Care Surrogate Designation
  • An Anatomical Donation

You can choose one, two, or all three.

What is a living will?

Senior couple reviewing medical documents

A living will is a written or oral statement explaining the kind of medical care you want or do not want when you cannot make your own decisions.

Unlike a usual will, a living will takes effect while you live – hence, the name.

What is a Florida Health Care Surrogate Designation?

What is a health care surrogate designation

This document names another person as your representative to make medical decisions when you cannot. In it you include instructions about any treatment you want or do not want.

Choosing a health care surrogate can be crucial when medical decisions need to be made quickly.

Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR)

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is another type of advance directive. A DNR instructs doctors to refrain from performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing.

 Without these specific instructions, hospital staff will try to save all patients whose hearts have stopped or who have stopped breathing.

You can include DNR instructions in a more comprehensive advance directive. Or you can use the DNR as a separate form available at all hospitals.

Your DNR order will be placed in your medical chart by your doctor. DNR orders are accepted by doctors and hospitals in all states.

Which Directive is Best?

Depending on your individual needs, you may wish to complete any one or a combination of the various types of advance directives.

Are Your Required to Have a Living Will or Advance Directive?

Healthcare directive for seniors

No. There is no legal requirement to have these documents. Even though these are critical medical and legal documents, only about one-third of Americans have a living will or advance directive.

If you do not have a living will or advance directive, a court-appointed guardian, spouse, or relative will make these crucial medical and care decisions. And their decision may not be according to your wishes.

An advance directive will ensure that your medical and care wishes are carried out as you want.

Must an Attorney Prepare the Advance Directive?

Senior reviewing care documents

No, but it is a good idea to have it reviewed by a professional who is familiar with the law and the medical community. And in Florida, an advance directive, whether it is a written or oral statement, needs to be witnessed by two individuals. At least one of the witnesses cannot be a spouse or a blood relative.

Can I Change an Advance Directive?

Yes. You may change or cancel a Florida advance directive at any time. Changes should be written, signed, and dated. But you can also change them through an oral statement, physical destruction, or a new advance directive.

What if I Have an Advance Directive from Another State?

Advance directives lawfully completed in another state can be honored in Florida.

What Do I Do with My Advance Directive?

Medical Documents

If you designate a health care surrogate, talk to them first and ensure they agree to this responsibility. Choose wisely. Only some people are comfortable dealing with doctors and health decisions. Discuss how you would like matters handled, and give them a copy of the document.

Make sure that your healthcare provider, attorney, and significant persons know you have an advance directive. Tell them where it is located and give them a copy.

Set up a file where you can keep a copy of your advance directive and other necessary paperwork.

Put a card or note in your purse or wallet, letting medical professionals know you have an advance directive and where it is located.

Your Next Best Step

Family reviewing medical documents

Putting off health care decisions is easier than dealing with them now. Only one-third of the US population has an advance directive or living will. But this procrastination can often lead to tragic and unwanted results.

Having your instructions on a legal document, or appointing a health care surrogate, ensures that your wishes will be carried out – even when you can’t speak for yourself.

But when dealing with a senior family member, sometimes this all seems overwhelming.

Let us help.

We are a Florida-based company with expert knowledge of the Florida senior market. While senior options can seem confusing, this is all we do.

Florida Senior Consulting helps older adults decide their next best steps so they can live their best lives with safety and security.

We have certified staff, licensed nurse advocates, and decades of experience in the field.

Senior living should be on your terms, and the choice should always be yours.

Call us, and we will answer all your questions and help you decide what is best for you or your senior loved one.

For peace of mind, call us at (941) 661-6196 or visit us at

Contact Florida Senior Consulting

(800) 969-7176