COVID 19 Pandemic: If I can’t make medical decisions for myself, who can?
On January 19, 2020, a man in his mid-thirties reported to an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County, Washington, with a persistent cough and fever. The next day, testing by the Center for Disease Control confirmed that the man had COVID 19 marking the first positive test in the United States. Since then, positive cases in the United States have ballooned to over 1,000,000 even as social distancing and quarantine measures have become the new normal.
These unprecedented circumstances raise critical questions about medical care. If you become too sick to make your own medical decisions, who gets to make them? And, to what extent can you control those decisions? In Florida, there are two basic ways you can direct medical decision-making before you become physically or mentally unable to make those decisions for yourself: (1) through the designation of a Healthcare surrogate and (2) by recording your treatment preferences in a living will.
Your Healthcare surrogate should be someone who knows your treatment preferences, is willing to make medical decisions for you, and is able to make those decisions. Florida has specific statutory requirements for documents establishing a healthcare proxy, so it is crucial to obtain competent legal counsel when you wish to designate a healthcare surrogate.
Living Wills are documents that give instructions concerning what types of treatment you are or are not willing to receive in end-of-life situations. Typically, someone will state in their living wills that they do not wish for medical professionals to use “heroic measures” to keep them alive if in fact there is no reasonable expectation of recovery. However, if there is any reasonable chance of recovery, this document will not apply, and it will not prevent medical professionals from using “heroic measures” to save you. It is important that you are comfortable with exactly how this document is worded and that you have an experienced attorney who can guide you through this decision process.
You might be thinking to yourself that it is too dangerous to consult an attorney in person during this global pandemic, and you would be right that you should not go to an attorneys’ office at this time. Fortunately, you can consult our attorneys through virtual meeting software and review draft documents electronically. Our seasoned attorneys will provide instructions on exactly how your advanced medical directives can be executed to comply with Florida’s witnessing and execution requirements, without having to come in to an attorney’s office. In these dangerous times, it is more important than ever to plan for the unexpected.
We are Open. Please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys Bart Chepenik, JD, LL M, 305-613-3548 or Brad Trushin, Esq. 305-981-8889 of Chepenik Trushin LLP, who are ready, willing, and able to assist with your estate planning, trust administration and probate litigation needs.