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Advanced directives 101

Alex Miller

Unlike a will, which can involve a lot of time and money with an attorney, advanced directives for health care contingencies are relatively simple and inexpensive to prepare.The Colorado Health & Hospital Association pamphlet “Your Right to Make Health Care Decisions” outlines the basics of advance directives and related information. You can get the brochure free online at cha.com and look under the “associated links” column. Included in the brochure (in PDF form online) are Colorado-specific forms to fill out.Advance directives can include:-A living will, which is a document you sign to let doctors know you do not want artificial life-support measures that will only serve to postpone the moment of death. Living wills can be problematic when a situation falls outside what is specifically stipulated in the document. A feeding tube, for instance, won’t be withheld unless the living will specifically says so.-A CPR directive, which tells doctors, emergency workers or others not to attempt cardio pulmonary resuscitation in the event your heart and/or lungs cease to function. CPR directives are usually only signed by patients with terminal illnesses.-A DNR, or “do not resuscitate” order – signed by a physician, with essentially the same result as a CPR directive. It can also be part of a living will.-Durable power of attorney may be the best course for multiple contingencies for someone with a trusted spouse, parent or other. By signing this document, you enable an “agent” to speak and make decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. Can be made effective immediately or at such time as you are no longer able to make your own medical decisions. If you’re married and appoint your spouse as agent, that person will be automatically removed at the time of divorce or legal separation. -Substitute decision makers – Under Colorado law, if you are unable to make medical decisions and do not have a durable power of attorney naming an agent, family members or close friends can be chosen as a proxy by mutual agreement. A proxy has some decision-making abilities but not as much as an agent.-Guardians – A guardian is appointed by a court to assist those who cannot make decisions on their own. Guardianship may or may not include power to make medical decisions. These are general definitions. For more comprehensive information, you may need to contact an attorney. Vail, Colorado


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