A guardian having a hard time to sign a DNR. Being a guardian is an enormous responsibility that requires making some challenging decisions. Each state has its own rules regarding what guardians can do, including the legal rights to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) for a ward (the incapacitated person). Florida guardians have the right to sign a DNR on behalf of a ward, but there are certain procedures to follow.

At Beller & Bustamante, P.L., we help our clients navigate through all aspects of guardianships while educating them throughout the process.

What Is a DNR Order?

A DNR order is a type of advance directive used to make a decision ahead of time regarding life-saving treatment. This legal document specifically instructs a health care provider to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and any other type of resuscitative treatment. In other words, medical staff will not attempt to restart a patient’s heart or restore breathing if they go into cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest. Without a DNR order, the medical staff is obligated to perform CPR to try to save the person’s life.

Typically, those suffering from a terminal diagnosis or end-stage condition may decide to complete a DNR form. This form should be discussed directly with the patient’s medical professionals.

A DNR order is very different from a health care power of attorney and a living will. If you need assistance with either of these documents, contact an estate planning attorney.

Who Can Sign a DNR Order?

Under Florida law, a DNR order is valid only if it’s on an approved form from the Department of Health and has the appropriate signatures. The patient’s doctor must sign the form, as well as either the patient or the patient’s representative or court-appointed guardian. There is no requirement that the form is witnessed or notarized.

A guardian does not have an absolute right to sign a DNR. They still need to get the court’s approval to take this type of action. We will cover this in more detail below.

In Florida, DNR orders never expire, but they can be revoked at any time by the patient or guardian. To revoke a DNR order, the guardian must communicate the revocation in one of the following ways:

  • Orally;
  • In writing;
  • By physically destroying the order;
  • Failing to present the order; or
  • By expressing a contrary intent.

Although a guardian has the power to revoke the DNR, they can only do so if it is in the ward’s best interests.

Duties and Powers of a Guardian

A guardian has a fiduciary duty to the ward and can only exercise those powers that the court delegates to them. This duty requires the guardian to do the following:

  • Act within the scope of the authority granted by the court and allowed under the law;
  • Act in good faith;
  • Act only in a manner that serves the best interests of the ward; and
  • Use any special skills or expertise when acting on the ward’s behalf.

If a guardian breaches the fiduciary duty to the ward, the court can take necessary measures to protect the ward and the ward’s assets.

A guardian’s powers over the ward can be either limited or plenary. A limited guardian can only exercise rights specifically authorized by the court. A plenary guardian has more general authority to act. However, regardless of the guardian’s scope of authority, there are some powers that still require the court’s approval, like guardian rights to sign a DNR.

Power to Sign a DNR with Court Approval

On June 18, 2020, Florida’s Governor approved a bill that requires court approval for guardians to sign a DNR for a ward. The bill also outlines what procedures must take place if the ward is facing an emergency situation and the guardian wants to sign the DNR order on the ward’s behalf immediately—before the emergency expires.

What Are the Procedures to Sign a DNR for a Ward?

For a guardian to sign a DNR order on the ward’s behalf, they need to petition the court for authorization to act. The guardian’s petition must include facts that show the necessity for the guardian’s actions. An experienced guardianship legal practitioner can help you collect the information you need to properly complete and file your petition.

Although the effect of a DNR order may mean the difference between life and death, Florida does not require the court to use the procedures used when granting extraordinary authority to a guardian. For example, there’s no requirement for the court to personally meet with the ward, appoint an independent attorney to represent the ward, or require medical, psychological, or social evaluations for the ward. However, the court will only omit these measures if the ward is in a dire situation.

Procedures for Exigent Circumstances

Courts use different procedures for approving a guardian’s request to sign a DNR if the ward is facing an emergency situation. In exigent circumstances, the court must hold a preliminary hearing within 72 hours of the petition being filed. Within that time, the court must do one of the following:

  • Make a decision immediately after the preliminary hearing; or
  • Conduct an evidentiary hearing within four days after the preliminary hearing and make a ruling immediately after the evidentiary hearing.

If you find yourself in this type of situation where you need a ruling quickly, it is wise to consult with a guardianship lawyer. It’s crucial that you have the information and documents you need and meet all deadlines required by the court.

Contact a Guardianship Lawyer at Beller and Bustamante, P.L.

Being someone’s guardian means you may need to make life-altering choices for them. Dealing with the legal side of those decisions is something you don’t need to do alone. At Beller and Bustamante, P.L., our experienced guardianship lawyers are here to help you with all of your guardianship needs. We take the time to educate our clients and then work efficiently to get results. With over 40 years of combined experience, we know how to achieve our client’s goals and prepare them for what lies ahead.

To schedule a consultation, contact us by calling 904-288-4414 or fill out our online form.