Understanding Legal Issues

Educating yourself about the legal issues associated with chronic medical conditions and end-of-life care can bring peace of mind.

Understanding Legal Issues

What is informed consent?

Patients in hospice need to give informed consent. The patient or proper legal representative (e.g. medical power of attorney; health care surrogate) must sign the informed consent in advance of admission into hospice care. Under Florida law, a health care proxy is allowed to sign the informed consent when no legal representative is available and the patient is not competent to make decisions.

How can I get access to medical records if my family member is in hospice?

The Florida statute is stricter than the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) statute, which states that family members are allowed access to records for patients in hospice.

Under Florida hospice record law, a hospice may not release a patient’s hospice record or any portion thereof, unless the person requesting the information provides to the hospice:

  • A patient authorization executed by the patient
  • In the case of an incapacitated patient, a patient authorization executed prior to the patient’s death by the patient’s then-acting legal guardian, health care surrogate
  • A court order appointing the person as the administrator, curator, executor, or personal representative of the patient’s estate with authority to obtain the patient’s medical records. If a judicial appointment has not been made, a last will that is self-proved designates the person to act as the patient’s personal representative
  • An order by a court of competent jurisdiction to release the interdisciplinary record to the person.

Presenting a HIPAA form stating that you’re allowed to have records will not grant you access to those records unless you’re a legal representative of the patient. If a patient is of sound mind but they don’t think they will be able to make medical decisions as their illness progresses, they should designate a health care surrogate or medical power of attorney.

For more about HIPAA and privacy practices, including how you can get access to medical information, visit our HIPAA and Privacy page.

Advance Care Planning Discussions

What would happen if you were unable to speak for yourself? Would your loved one and family know your wishes? There’s never a better time than the present to think about advance care planning and make your wishes known.

Advance care planning discussions can include the following:

  • Advance directive
  • Living will
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Designation of a health care surrogate
  • Life-sustaining procedures
  • Do not resuscitate order (DNRO)
  • Physician order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST)

Click here for more information on Advance Care Planning. If you need assistance in getting the conversation started, call 1-866-204-8611 and speak with a care professional.


Taking care of patients, or taking care of those who do.