Surrogate Decision Making in Utah

Have you wondered what would happened if you or a loved one did not have an advance directive which appoints a health care agent and your health care preferences? Is it still possible for a loved one to make health care decisions for you or even make decisions on your behalf which terminate life-sustaining care? In Utah, we have laws that govern both who may serve as a surrogate decision-maker and also the types of decisions that a surrogate may make on your behalf, which does include the authority to terminate life sustaining care.

Utah law sets forth a list of people who have priority to become a surrogate health care decision-maker in the following order: spouse, child, parent, sibling , grandchild or grandparent.

Utah Code Sec. 75-2a-110

75-2a-110.  Surrogate decision making — Scope of authority.

(1)        A surrogate acting under the authority of either Section 75-2a-107 or 75-2a-108 shall make health care decisions in accordance with:

(a)        the adult’s current preferences, to the extent possible;

(b)       the adult’s written or oral health care directions, if any; or

(c)        the substituted judgment standard.

(2)        A surrogate acting under authority of Sections 75-2a-107 and 75-2a-108:

(a)        may not admit the adult to a licensed health care facility for long-term custodial placement other than for assessment, rehabilitative, or respite care over the objection of the adult; and

(b)       may make health care decisions, including decisions to terminate life sustaining treatment for the adult patient in accordance with Subsection (1).

(3)        A surrogate acting under authority of this section is not subject to civil or criminal liability or claims of unprofessional conduct for surrogate health care decisions made:

(a)        in accordance with this section; and

(b)       in good faith.

Importance of Written Directive

Our state’s laws allow a family member or guardian to make important health care decisions for you largely based on knowledge of what you want in particular circumstances (substituted judgment). The clearest means to ensure your desires will be heeded is to execute a Utah Advance Directive, which nominates the health care agent of your choosing and spells out your wishes in end-of-life circumstances.