Some decisions should be made in advance, just in case a person is unable to make them in the future. Proper estate planning helps fulfill this role. This planning should include living wills and other medical directives, which set forth a person’s wishes on the care they will receive at the end of their life.
In Colorado, a living will is also known as a declaration for medical treatment. These documents address whether medical providers should administer, withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures when a person has an incurable condition or is unconscious or incompetent. A life sustaining procedure is defined as CPR, defibrillation, administering medications, surgery and any procedure that prolongs the dying process.
A person may declare their wishes concerning the administration, termination and refusal of life-sustaining procedures and the use of artificial nutrition and hydration. These documents may also address treatment if a person is in a persistent vegetative state and the making of anatomical gifts.
A living will may be revoked or amended. Medical professionals will comply with these documents without the threat of liability, if these appear valid and there was no fraud or improper execution. Regardless of any decisions rejecting life sustaining treatment, doctors will administer necessary treatment for alleviating pain and suffering.
Medical or health care power of attorneys are also important. These designate an agent to make health care decisions when a person is unable to make these decisions. These differ from a living will because an agent’s authority exists even if a person is terminally ill or in a permanent vegetative state. But, the agent must comply with any living wills.
The power of attorney should contain permission for medical professionals to release information to the agent before a person is unable to make medical decisions so that the agent may work with heath care professionals to determine whether a person is incapacitated. Agents may have broad or limited authority and must act within specific instructions on a person’s wishes and beliefs.