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When an individual is in a hospital bed in critical condition, either in a coma or not in the right state of mind, decisions must be made on the next course of treatment. This decision hinges on whether the individual had advanced directive forms stating what should be done or who is to decide.

If they did not specify in a written document, the law contains provisions that give direction on who should be appointed to make the decision.

Understanding advance directive forms and the role of a surrogate decision-maker is essential for individuals and families to ensure the medical decisions align with the person's values and wishes.

As a result, the involved parties can make informed decisions about your healthcare even when you cannot communicate with them. Today, we will help you better understand the role of a surrogate decision-maker and how an advanced directive form comes into play.

What Is a Surrogate Decision Maker?

A surrogate decision maker, also called a healthcare proxy, is an individual appointed to make medical decisions on behalf of someone incapacitated by injury or illness. They can also be appointed to take charge when you lack the mental capacity to make decisions in conditions such as:

  • Moderate to severe dementia
  • Degenerative disease (e.g., Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Terminal stage illness

The surrogate decision maker can be a family member, friend, or legal representative appointed through legal documentation. Afterward, they become responsible for medical decisions that align with your beliefs, wishes, and values.

In summary, surrogate consent laws are legal provisions that monitor surrogate decision-making when you cannot make medical decisions. These laws establish who can act as a surrogate decision maker, the factors to consider when the appointed person makes the medical decisions, and how to resolve disputes that may arise.

Overall, two surrogate consent laws are recognized; hierarchy surrogate consent laws and consensus surrogate consent laws. The following table compares the two laws.

Hierarchy Surrogate Consent Laws Consensus Surrogate Consent Laws
Decision-making process Has a clear hierarchy of individuals authorized to make the medical decisions Requires collaborative decision-making among family members (decision by surrogates) to reach a consensus
Purpose Provides a straightforward decision-making framework in the absence of a designated surrogate decision maker Seeks to respect the patient's wishes while taking into account the perspective of family members
Main advantage Offers a simple decision-making process that is easy to implement Provides a more refined decision-making process that is sensitive to the patient's existing relationships
Key disadvantage Challenging when family dynamics are complicated and the patient's wishes are not clear Time-consuming and may cause conflict among family members

Default surrogate consent refers to the legal provision that specifies who is authorized to make critical healthcare decisions on behalf of the patient. Essentially, this person was not appointed as a surrogate decision-maker using legal documentation such as a durable medical power of attorney.

The default surrogate consent provision prevents families from going into a judicial guardianship proceeding for lacking an advanced directive form. This leeway allows the physician to consult a designated person or people who can convey your wishes.

Definition of Surrogate decision-maker hierarchy

Surrogate decision-maker hierarchy refers to the legal order of persons authorized to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient who has not designated a surrogate decision-maker.

The default surrogate consent laws establish the hierarchy and may vary by state and jurisdiction. Generally, the following is the order that the law authorizes a surrogate decision maker:

  1. Spouse/domestic partner
  2. Adult children
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings
  5. Other relatives in order of closeness
  6. Close friends
  7. Court-appointed guardians
  8. Legal representatives

Decision-Making Through Advance Directives

Decision-making through advance directives entails using a legal document allowing you to decide about your healthcare options in advance.

Advanced directives contain instructions about the medical treatments you want or do not want. It also has a section where you appoint a surrogate decision-maker to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Types of advance directives

There are two main types of advanced directives:

Living Will: Also known as a medical living will or medical healthcare directives. It outlines your preferences regarding end-of-life treatment. It also specifies the medical management you desire if you become terminally ill or cannot communicate your wishes.

Living wills cover issues such as life support, pain relief, artificial nutrition, and organ donation.

Start your Living Will now

Durable Power of Attorney: Also called a medical power of attorney or health care power of attorney. It appoints a trusted person to make the medical decisions on your behalf. The person you choose is known as a healthcare proxy or agent.

This document is broader than a living will as it allows the proxy to make more than just end-life care decisions. Other decisions it allows the agent to make are surgical procedures, medication offered, and various medical interventions.

Start your Durable Power of Attorney now

Why Advance Directives Are Important

Making a deliberate effort to create advanced directives will ensure you receive comprehensive coverage of your medical condition. Other reasons why advanced directives are essential are:

  • Ensures parties involved respect your wishes: The documents allow you to specify your medical treatment preferences and ensure your wishes are followed.
  • Guarantees efficient medical care: Advanced directives eliminate unnecessary treatments or interventions you would not want and ensure the healthcare provider gives you the exact treatment you want.
  • Reduce family conflict: Your family is less likely to disagree about the medical intervention the doctors should pursue. It also reduces the anxiety they may feel about choosing a particular intervention.
  • Empowers you: Advanced directives allow you to have a say in your medical treatment plan rather than leaving it to others.
  • Gives peace of mind: Whether you know the state of your health or not, these documents will give you and your loved ones peace of mind knowing you documented your wishes.

Many healthcare providers recommend people draft advanced directives. These documents help quicken the treatment process and ensure they provide the ideal medical care for their patients.

LawDistrict offers you a professional Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney that covers all legal grounds with sections that ensure your wishes are clearly outlined. Start working on your documents with us today.

Helpful Rources:

American Bar - Decisions by Surrogates

NIH - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)

When an individual is in a hospital bed in critical condition, either in a coma or not in the right state of mind, decisions must be made on the next course of treatment. This decision hinges on whether the individual had advanced directive forms stating what should be done or who is to decide.

If they did not specify in a written document, the law contains provisions that give direction on who should be appointed to make the decision.

Understanding advance directive forms and the role of a surrogate decision-maker is essential for individuals and families to ensure the medical decisions align with the person's values and wishes.

As a result, the involved parties can make informed decisions about your healthcare even when you cannot communicate with them. Today, we will help you better understand the role of a surrogate decision-maker and how an advanced directive form comes into play.

What Is a Surrogate Decision Maker?

A surrogate decision maker, also called a healthcare proxy, is an individual appointed to make medical decisions on behalf of someone incapacitated by injury or illness. They can also be appointed to take charge when you lack the mental capacity to make decisions in conditions such as:

  • Moderate to severe dementia
  • Degenerative disease (e.g., Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Terminal stage illness

The surrogate decision maker can be a family member, friend, or legal representative appointed through legal documentation. Afterward, they become responsible for medical decisions that align with your beliefs, wishes, and values.

In summary, surrogate consent laws are legal provisions that monitor surrogate decision-making when you cannot make medical decisions. These laws establish who can act as a surrogate decision maker, the factors to consider when the appointed person makes the medical decisions, and how to resolve disputes that may arise.

Overall, two surrogate consent laws are recognized; hierarchy surrogate consent laws and consensus surrogate consent laws. The following table compares the two laws.

Hierarchy Surrogate Consent Laws Consensus Surrogate Consent Laws
Decision-making process Has a clear hierarchy of individuals authorized to make the medical decisions Requires collaborative decision-making among family members (decision by surrogates) to reach a consensus
Purpose Provides a straightforward decision-making framework in the absence of a designated surrogate decision maker Seeks to respect the patient's wishes while taking into account the perspective of family members
Main advantage Offers a simple decision-making process that is easy to implement Provides a more refined decision-making process that is sensitive to the patient's existing relationships
Key disadvantage Challenging when family dynamics are complicated and the patient's wishes are not clear Time-consuming and may cause conflict among family members

Default surrogate consent refers to the legal provision that specifies who is authorized to make critical healthcare decisions on behalf of the patient. Essentially, this person was not appointed as a surrogate decision-maker using legal documentation such as a durable medical power of attorney.

The default surrogate consent provision prevents families from going into a judicial guardianship proceeding for lacking an advanced directive form. This leeway allows the physician to consult a designated person or people who can convey your wishes.

Definition of Surrogate decision-maker hierarchy

Surrogate decision-maker hierarchy refers to the legal order of persons authorized to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient who has not designated a surrogate decision-maker.

The default surrogate consent laws establish the hierarchy and may vary by state and jurisdiction. Generally, the following is the order that the law authorizes a surrogate decision maker:

  1. Spouse/domestic partner
  2. Adult children
  3. Parents
  4. Siblings
  5. Other relatives in order of closeness
  6. Close friends
  7. Court-appointed guardians
  8. Legal representatives

Decision-Making Through Advance Directives

Decision-making through advance directives entails using a legal document allowing you to decide about your healthcare options in advance.

Advanced directives contain instructions about the medical treatments you want or do not want. It also has a section where you appoint a surrogate decision-maker to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Types of advance directives

There are two main types of advanced directives:

Living Will: Also known as a medical living will or medical healthcare directives. It outlines your preferences regarding end-of-life treatment. It also specifies the medical management you desire if you become terminally ill or cannot communicate your wishes.

Living wills cover issues such as life support, pain relief, artificial nutrition, and organ donation.

Start your Living Will now

Durable Power of Attorney: Also called a medical power of attorney or health care power of attorney. It appoints a trusted person to make the medical decisions on your behalf. The person you choose is known as a healthcare proxy or agent.

This document is broader than a living will as it allows the proxy to make more than just end-life care decisions. Other decisions it allows the agent to make are surgical procedures, medication offered, and various medical interventions.

Start your Durable Power of Attorney now

Why Advance Directives Are Important

Making a deliberate effort to create advanced directives will ensure you receive comprehensive coverage of your medical condition. Other reasons why advanced directives are essential are:

  • Ensures parties involved respect your wishes: The documents allow you to specify your medical treatment preferences and ensure your wishes are followed.
  • Guarantees efficient medical care: Advanced directives eliminate unnecessary treatments or interventions you would not want and ensure the healthcare provider gives you the exact treatment you want.
  • Reduce family conflict: Your family is less likely to disagree about the medical intervention the doctors should pursue. It also reduces the anxiety they may feel about choosing a particular intervention.
  • Empowers you: Advanced directives allow you to have a say in your medical treatment plan rather than leaving it to others.
  • Gives peace of mind: Whether you know the state of your health or not, these documents will give you and your loved ones peace of mind knowing you documented your wishes.

Many healthcare providers recommend people draft advanced directives. These documents help quicken the treatment process and ensure they provide the ideal medical care for their patients.

LawDistrict offers you a professional Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney that covers all legal grounds with sections that ensure your wishes are clearly outlined. Start working on your documents with us today.

Helpful Rources:

American Bar - Decisions by Surrogates

NIH - Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)