Standing Up for You

An important part of planning for care before a health emergency arises is choosing someone to carry out the plan. A healthcare surrogate is a person you appoint and trust to speak, make decisions and take actions on your behalf based on your wishes, if you are too injured or hurt to communicate.

It is best to select one healthcare surrogate and one alternate, in case the primary is unable to serve. These may be family members, friends or other adults you believe know you best, are excellent communicators, have good judgement, are accessible and will insist your living will and wishes are followed, even if they do not agree with your choices.

Share who you have chosen with your doctors and any loved ones who are caring for you. You can change your healthcare surrogate at any time. If you do not have anyone named, we can provide a certified facilitator to serve you.

Click here to print our healthcare surrogate/living will form in English.

Click here to print our healthcare surrogate/living will form in Spanish.

For more information on Healthcare Surrogates, please contact us at (727) 536-7364.

What are the responsibilities of a healthcare surrogate?

• Consenting to, withdrawing or refusing medical tests or treatments, including life-prolonging interventions like CPR, breathing machines, artificial nutrition, dialysis, etc.

• Accessing your medical records and any information needed about your health care

• Deciding whether to transfer you to another doctor or healthcare facility

• Asking questions and getting explanations about your treatment choices from the medical team

• Authorizing admission to or discharge from any hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility

• Asking for consultations and second opinions

• Applying for public benefits, such as Medicare/Medicaid

• Deciding about organ and tissue donations

Who makes a good healthcare surrogate?

A good healthcare surrogate knows you well and understands what is important to you. This person should be willing to be a strong advocate and able to act on your wishes and values. Your healthcare surrogate should live nearby and be available long into the future. He or she must be prepared to respond to any conflicting opinions between your family and the medical team.

What are the benefits of having a healthcare surrogate?
  • Your healthcare surrogate knows and understands your wishes about medical treatments.
  • Your healthcare surrogate has flexibility. He or she can talk with your doctors about changing medical conditions.
  • Your healthcare surrogate can interpret your living will in unforeseen situations.
  • Your healthcare surrogate can advocate. If your healthcare providers resist following your wishes, your health care surrogate can negotiate and take any other necessary steps to see that your wishes are honored.
What happens if you do not have healthcare surrogate?

If a healthcare surrogate has not been designated or if it is unknown whether one exists, then a healthcare facility may appoint a default decision-maker called a healthcare proxy. In Florida, proxies are chosen according to the following order of priority:

  1. Judicially-appointed guardian (if necessary)
  2. Spouse
  3. Adult child (ren)
  4. Parent(s)
  5. Adult sibling (s)
  6. Adult relative
  7. Close friend*
  8. A clinical social worker licensed pursuant to chapter 491, or who is a graduate of a court-approved guardianship program*

* See section 765.401, Florida Statutes.

What is your healthcare advocate program?

Trained advance care planning facilitators will serve as healthcare decision makers to individuals in Tampa Bay who, either by choice or by circumstance, have no one to speak for them. A facilitator will provide education and support as you complete your healthcare surrogate/living will form. When and if it becomes necessary, that person will communicate the previously-discussed wishes with your providers.