• Michael Stanski

Florida’s Health Care Powers of Attorney in the age of Coronavirus


The United States is witnessing exponential grow in Coronavirus (COVID-19). If the United States mirrors the experiences of Italy and other open democratic countries many Americans will be hospitalized with the illness.


What are your legal rights in Florida if hospitalized?

What can you do to help yourself?


Florida has developed many tools to address medical decision making for hospitalized patients. The three most common are health care power of attorney (advance health care directive), living willing, and health care proxy.



Health Care Power of Attorney (Advance Health Care Directive)


Florida law allows for another person to make medical decisions if a patient is incapacitated. This document is extremely important for person at risk of hospitalization. A health care power of attorney names another person to make decisions for and receive information from medical staff.


This document must meet certain drafting requirements and should be written then executed by an attorney. This document should be individually tailored to each person to ensure a person’s wishes are met.


Living Will


A living will is an end of life document to communicate preference for providing or withholding life-prolonging procedures. A living will applies to these three situations:


1. Terminal condition.

2. End-stage condition.

3. Persistent vegetative state.


This document must meet certain drafting requirements and should be written then executed by an attorney. This document should be individually tailored to each person to ensure a person’s wishes are met.


Health Care Proxy


In the event no health care power of attorney or living will is executed the law allows for a proxy to make health care decision. A proxy is also determined if a named person in a health care power of attorney or living will is unable or unwilling to help. A proxy is selected based on the following order of priority:


1. Judicially appointed guardian.

2. Patient’s spouse.

3. Adult child or majority of adult children.

4. A parent of the patient.

5. Adult sibling of patient or majority of adult siblings.

6. Adult relative of patient who has maintained regular contact with patient.

7. Close friend of the patient.

8. Licensed or court approved clinical social worker.


Two critical circumstances


Two circumstances highlight the need for legal preparation to name a medical decision maker: complex medical history and conflict among family members.


Complex medical history. A patient with a complex medical history or comorbidity should have clear written instructions for their decision maker. A patient does not know in advance where he or she may be hospitalized. For patients with complex medical histories communication with primary care givers or current treating specialists may be important.


Conflict among family members. Often family members do not agree on a treatment plan for the patient. Naming a single decision maker in writing is critical to mitigate conflict.


Knowing who will help make decisions will provide family stability, give patients peace of mind, and aid medical staff. For many people being legally prepared may be as important as being medically prepared.


Where can you get help?


For persons in Jacksonville, Florida: My office will facilitate referrals or you can contact the Jacksonville Bar Associations Lawyer Referral Service: (904) 399-5780, LRScoord@jaxbar.org, or https://www.jaxbar.org/page/LawyerReferralServ


For persons in Florida: My office will facilitate referrals or you can contact the Florida Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service: (800) 342-8011 or https://lrs.floridabar.org.


For active duty and military retirees: Contact your local JAG office to get legal assistance for drafting these documents.


DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for educational purposes only. Laws, regulations, and rules constantly change and information is valid for the date published only. No legal advice is given. No attorney client relationship has been formed by reading this entry. Each case is different and you should consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction before undergoing any legal proceeding.

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Jacksonville, Florida