Advance Medical Directives
Protecting Your Right to Choose or Refuse Medical Treatment
All competent adults have the right to accept or refuse any medical treatment.
Competent means you understand your condition and the results your decision
may have. But what happens if you become too ill or injured to make your
own decisions about your medical care? How will your family and physicians
know what treatment you would choose?
You can plan ahead by writing an Advance Medical Directive. Advance directives
are documents signed by a competent person giving direction to healthcare
providers about your future medical care should you become unable to make
those decisions yourself.
The Colorado Health Foundation has funded an Advance Care Planning Project
to support community-wide conversations and documentation of end-of-life wishes.
Types of Advance Medical Directives
two kinds of Advance Directives: a Medical Durable Power of Attorney and
a Living Will.
Medical Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions lets you name another person - known as a patient advocate, agent or proxy
- to make medical decisions for you. You can select a family member, friend,
or any other person you trust, but be sure they are willing to serve in
this role. Your advocate can speak for you if - and only if - you can't
state your wishes yourself. Your advocate can also talk with your doctors
for you about the risks and benefits of medical treatments in specific
Living Will, known in Colorado as a
Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment, lets you explain in writing which medical treatments you would choose
or refuse at the end of your life. A living will takes effect only when
you are at the end of your life and can no longer express your wishes yourself.
Medical treatment at the end of your life generally falls into three main
- Life-supporting care refers to CPR, machines and medications that keep
your heart and lungs going when they can't work on their own.
- Life-sustaining care involves treatment and machines that can prolong your
life when your condition can't be reversed or cured.
- Life-enhancing care keeps you comfortable until death occurs naturally.
Nothing is done artificially to prolong your life.
Once you know what your treatment wishes are and who your agent is, inform
your family and your doctors. Try to talk with them before you become
seriously ill. In a medical crisis, your family might not agree on the
care you would want. Or your doctor might order treatment that differs
from what you would choose for yourself.
Click here to download and print forms for Declaration as to Medical or Surgical
Treatment and Medical Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions.