The Florida courts may appoint a guardian over individuals who become incapacitated and cannot make legal decisions on their own. A guardian generally has oversight of his or her ward’s personal and financial affairs, which may include providing instructions regarding health care treatments. 

Families may, however, find themselves in conflict with the actions and directions of a court-appointed guardian. 

Disagreeing with a guardian’s decisions 

The manner in which a guardian carries out a loved one’s affairs could substantially differ from both the individual’s and the family’s preferences. An incapacitated family member, for example, may have preferred receiving a specific health care routine, but a guardian could have remained unaware of the incapacitated ward’s wishes. The court-appointed guardian may instead instruct a physician to administer a standard medical procedure rather than what the ward would have preferred. 

Holding a guardian responsible for injuries or death 

Without input from an incapacitated individual and based on a guardian’s instructions, attending medical professionals may provide care that differs from a family’s customs or traditions. When it results in harm or damages to the ward or family, holding a guardian liable for breach of duty may result. 

In one such case, the surviving daughter of a deceased 75-year-old man filed a legal action against his guardian and sought damages for his wrongful death. As reported by ClickOrlando, the complaint alleges that the guardian failed to allow her coherent father to appoint an advocate for his health care treatment. The suit claims that the guardian’s negligence, neglect and abuse resulted in a premature death. 

Creating an advance health care directive 

To prevent future health care issues, an individual may choose a trusted agent or surrogate. An advance health care directive then outlines the preferred treatments the chosen agent should instruct caregivers and medical professionals to provide. Taking this proactive step could prevent doctors from ignoring an incapacitated patient’s preferred treatment plan. 

A well-written advance health care directive may help provide a family with both confidence and relief during a difficult time. As reported by Forbes magazine, however, only one-third of adults create health care directives.