Even though a living will sounds like a will, it isn’t what most people think. While a traditional will covers how your property will be distributed to heirs, the living will focuses on medical treatment and end-of-life care.
This is a legally binding document, also known as the “Declaration as to Medical Treatment” that lays out your wishes for medical care and end-of-life procedures in the event that you’re unable to speak for yourself, have a terminal illness, or are in a “persistent vegetative state.”
The laws for a living will in Colorado came out of the Colorado Medical Treatment Act (Colorado Code 15-18-102) which recognizes “the right of an adult to accept or reject medical or surgical treatment.” It goes into effect 48 hours after two doctors determine your state is covered by one of the circumstances listed above.
Our attorneys at the Meurer Law Offices in Denver can explain it in more detail but here is an example: your living will guides medical decisions if you suddenly suffer a traumatic injury and the medical facility needs to make a decision regarding what life-sustaining procedures for you.
If you can’t make decisions for yourself, living wills and health care directives drafted with the help of the Meurer Law Offices can speak for you when you can’t. This ensures that a spouse or other family member is not left with the burden of making decisions without knowing what you prefer and how you wish to be treated in a dire situation.
What a Living Will in Colorado Covers
These are written, legal instructions affecting your specific medical procedure preferences. Whether you’re seriously hurt in a car accident or perhaps in a coma due to an illness, these instructions will guide your doctors as they make decisions regarding:
- Resuscitation directives (CPR/defibrillation) in case of cardiac arrest
- Donating organs and tissue transplants
- Using mechanical ventilation if you’re unable to do so on your own
- If you want to be on a feeding tube and if so, for how long
- Palliative care, including pain management
- Receiving dialysis treatment
- Use of antibiotics or antiviral medicines when you are near the end of life
- Donating your body for scientific study
Basically, with a living will in Colorado, a competent adult can decide what life-sustaining procedures you want to be withheld or withdrawn if you end up not being able to communicate these wishes to your doctor or medical staff.
It’s All in the Details of Your Living Will
For a living will in Colorado to be valid, you must sign it in front of two witnesses who are 18 years of age or older and mentally competent. They cannot be part of your healthcare team, a creditor or anyone that will inherit anything from you upon your passing. If you cannot sign it yourself, you can ask another person to sign it for you if you are present and have expressed your desire to have them sign it on your behalf. Notarization is not necessary.
A living will can include a prohibition against any medical procedure or intervention that would serve only to prolong your dying process as long as it doesn’t include any procedure that would be for nourishment or considered by an attending physician to provide comfort or alleviate pain.
Artificial nourishment may be withdrawn if it is declared that it should not be continued if it is the only procedure being provided or that it should be continued for a specified period of time if it is the only procedure being provided.
You can revoke your living will in several ways. You can revoke it by verbally saying you revoke it, in writing, or by destroying the document.
A doctor carrying out the directives of a living will in Colorado has immunity for all actions. A hospital or physician withholding or withdrawing of life-sustaining procedures in compliance with your living will is NOT subject to any civil or criminal liability or licensing sanction in the absence of revocation, fraud, misrepresentation, or improper execution.
Living Will vs. Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
The primary difference is that a living will deals with end-of-life or terminal conditions. It focuses on measures that may or may not prolong your life even if recovery is not possible.
A durable power of attorney for healthcare also designates someone to make decisions for you in the event that you’re incapacitated or otherwise unable to speak for yourself. However, this is more applicable in situations where you will likely recover.
In a POA document, you can specify how you would like to be treated (or not) and address end-of-life scenarios, however, it’s typically focused on giving power to someone else to consult with your doctors and provide consent for various care options.
Used in tandem with your living will in Colorado, your trusted designee can make sure that your end-of-life wishes are honored.
The laws for your living will in Colorado sets out the legal requirements and can be complicated to decipher. For help from caring and compassionate, our attorneys at the Meurer Law Offices in Denver can explain what you need to know and draft a living will now so that it’s compliant with these laws. We can also discuss creating both a living will and durable power of attorney for healthcare document. We’ll make sure your wishes will be carried out if the time ever comes.
Get in touch today to get started with healthcare planning and more. We will help you protect your loved ones, your estate and your preferences for care. The Meurer Law Offices serves clients across Denver and Colorado Springs. If you’re unable to visit us, we offer home services for those in need. Please call or contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you.