There are few responsibilities greater than being named a person’s health care surrogate to make decisions for them if they are unable to make them on their own. In Arkansas, as part of an advance directive for health care, it is necessary to name a surrogate. This person will make the determinations regarding what health treatments are given. Obviously, this will have a substantial impact on the principal and their family. Knowing the specifics about the law, what is entailed in designating a surrogate and the extent of their authority is imperative. Having advice with these sensitive matters and knowing the law is key from the outset.
Essential facts about designating and granting authority to a surrogate
A surrogate can be anyone the principal chooses, provided they are an adult, a married minor or an emancipated minor. If they are married and want their spouse to be the surrogate, they can do that. If it is a child they trust to be the decision maker, that too is possible if they meet the legal criteria. It can be done orally or in writing. The individual who has been named a surrogate will have the right to make decisions in the principal’s stead if a licensed physician has deemed the principal to no longer have the capacity to make decisions on their own, if there is no agent or guardian appointed or they are not available.
The surrogate’s authority is vast. According to the law, the surrogate will make the health care decisions based on what the principal would have wanted. Often, a principal will leave detailed instructions. For example, they might not want to be placed on a ventilator if they are unable to breathe on their own. This could be the difference between life and death. There are certain life-saving treatments that can be given, but if the principal did not want them, then the surrogate can refuse them. If there is no detailed list of desires on the part of the principal, the surrogate is expected to act in their best interests.
When naming a health care surrogate, advice can be crucial
There are other areas of the law that apply when there has not been a named surrogate. This covers when a principal has specifically named someone and they will have the responsibility for health care decisions. As this shows, the surrogate is given enormous power if the principal is unable to state what they want when they are getting medical care. Therefore, it is critical to name a trustworthy person and to know the ramifications of this document.
Having professional assistance with these matters is a wise step to know whether the document is valid, what it entails and how the surrogate will oversee the principal’s treatment and care. Consulting with those who are experienced and caring regarding these sensitive matters and other areas of estate planning can give evenhanded guidance and advice vital to making an informed decision.