Innovations in the medical field have improved the rate of survival for the seriously injured and ill. Now that health care professionals are better able to save and prolong lives, concerns relating to prolonged suffering and delays in the dying process have become more of an issue.
Every person has the right to consent or decline any and all forms of medical treatment. But, what if you are too ill or injured to communicate your consent or refusal to a doctor? These decisions can be decided ahead of time with an appropriate estate plan.
This is a reasonable concern that can easily be addressed with a living will, which is sometimes called an Advance Health Care Directive.
What is a Living Will?
An living will is a collection of legal documents that you create in advance to inform your doctor, family, and friends of your health care preferences, as they relate to the kinds of medical treatment you may or may not want in end-of-life and other medical emergencies.
An Advance Health Care Directive can also specify and describe your wishes for diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, CPR, and to donate your organs. Creating an Advance Health Care Directive allows you to do three very important things under Colorado law:
- It allows you to appoint someone who is 18 years of age or older to be your health care agent. The document appointing your health care agent is called a Medical Power of Attorney. Your health care agent will communicate your wishes regarding what medical treatment you would or would not like to receive when you are unable to communicate these wishes yourself.
- Secondly, an Advance Health Care Directive will allow you to leave instructions for your end-of-life care. This is called a Living Will.
- In addition, an Advance Health Care Directive will allow you to document your desire to receive or not to receive treatment that will only prolong the dying process. This is called a Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Directive (CPR Directive).
The bottom line is that an Advance health care directives allow you to exercise legal control over your own health care, even when you are unable to communicate your desires or have become mentally incapacitated. When an AHCD is in place, you are prepared in case you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your desires for health care.
Who Should I Designate As My Health Care Agent?
When thinking about who to designate as your health care agent, make sure you choose someone you trust, like a relative, spouse, or a good friend. Your health care agent needs to be aware of your individual values and beliefs and agree to communicate them to your doctors.
It is also recommended that you designate someone who lives close to you, whenever possible, in case they are required to stay involved in your treatment plan for a prolonged period of time. Also, make sure you discuss your desires regarding medical care with your designated agent after confirming that the individual is willing to take on the responsibility.
Who Can Act As My Health Care Agent in Colorado?
Colorado allows you to appoint someone 18 years of age or older to be your health care agent. This person should be someone who can:
- Understand your wishes;
- Express your wishes;
- Be available when you need them;
- Be trusted to follow your wishes and act in your best interest; and
- Ask your doctors questions and voice his or her own opinion
What Kinds of Health Care Decisions Can My Health Care Agent Make?
A living will in Colorado enables you to grant your health care agent as broad or as limited power as you like. The health care agent's power may include:
- The authority to select your health care providers and the institutions where you will receive treatment;
- The authority to decline or consent to medical treatment;
- The authority to access your medical records; and
- The authority to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment
Furthermore, you have the option of allowing or restricting your agent's authority to do things after you have passed away, for example, the authority to:
- Donate your organs;
- Authorize an autopsy; and/or
- Dictate how your remains will be disposed of
When Does My Health Care Agent's Authority Begin?
Usually, your health care agent can begin to act on your behalf only after you have become incapacitated. However, you may specify in the living will that your health care agent is immediately authorized to act on your behalf.
How is an Advance Health Care Directive Executed?
In order to execute an Advance Health Care Directive in Colorado, you must:
- Be least 18 years of age and mentally competent;
- Have two qualified adult witnesses sign the Advance Health Care Directive; and
- Acknowledge that you are competent and acting under your own free will.
How to Change a Living Will
Yes. You may modify or revoke your Advance Health Care Directive whenever you like. To revoke a specified health care agent's power, you must inform your primary health care provider. To modify or revoke your health care instructions, you can do so whenever you want and in whatever way that conveys your intent to the necessary parties.
Creating a new Advance Health Care Directive instantly revokes your previous Advance Health Care Directive. Nevertheless, to avoid confusion, you should inform anyone has been given a copy of your previous Advance Health Care Directive of the changes or revocation.
To find out more about Advance Health Care Directives in Colorado, contact our qualified and experienced Colorado estate planning attorneys through the contact link on our website.