Bioethics Blogs

New Law in the Sunshine State: Name Your Primary Physician in Your Advance Directive

by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.

This week a revision to the Florida advance directive law takes effect. The notable things in this new law are that it allows for one to appoint a health care surrogate for a minor, to have a surrogate’s authority be effective immediately, and it necessitates appointing a primary physician fro make end-of-life determinations.

The bill was passed in this spring and signed into law on June 11, 2015. It was introduced by Senator John Wood, Republican of District 41. His district is in the middle of the state containing the city of Winter Haven.

I am not an attorney and am not providing legal advice. If you have questions in the state of Florida, you should seek the advice of an attorney. You can send your lawyer a link to the bill here. I am simply giving a bioethicist’s view of this bill.

The most curious change to the law is that “attending physician” has been altered to “primary physician.” A patient or surrogate can appoint a “primary physician.” Thinking about one’s primary doctor, this is usually not someone who works in the hospital. Thus, it is possible, even likely, that the new law gives the final decision for medical choices (what can be offered, what will be offered, diagnosis) to someone who is not at the hospital, may not be employed through the hospital, and may not even have privileges at that hospital. An outside doctor designated as “primary” can waltz into a hospital and make decisions that contradict that of the attending or treating physician on the case.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.