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Getting your affairs in order with a medical power of attorney

An often overlooked but vital part of estate planning concerns making decisions about end-of-life matters. Facing one's own mortality makes many Colorado residents and others uncomfortable.

But leaving matters to chance can place you in an extremely vulnerable position, subjected to others' whims because you failed to make your preferences known. You can protect yourself from life-prolonging resuscitative efforts with a living will and granting a trusted loved one your durable power of attorney.

Below are types of estate documents and what they can and cannot do.

A living will clearly outlines your directives regarding end-of-life measures that should or shouldn't be taken in the event you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself.

The decision to receive life-prolonging medical care is very personal and depends greatly on quality of life issues and may include surgery, dialysis, advanced life support, blood transfusions and drug therapies. You can indicate which measures, or none, you wish to be undertaken.

Do Not Resuscitate orders concern whether you want CPR to be performed when you expire. Once decided, give your physician a copy of your directive and leave one on file at your local hospital. It's also a good idea to let family members know, as well as to wear a Medic Alert with DNR stamped on it so paramedics are aware of your intentions.

Sometimes terminally ill patients choose to forego the administration of water and nutrition. While both are necessary for life, when they are only prolonging suffering and inevitable death, they can be stopped to allow the transition to occur naturally. You can indicate under which conditions you would prefer to stop being fed and hydrated and on what timeline.

Palliative care is often the sole treatment terminally ill patients want to receive. Despite the inevitability of approaching death, there is no reason to die in pain. Effective pain management can be tweaked to allow quality of life up until one's last moments. A living will can emphasize the desire for pain management as part of palliative care.

Granting powers of attorney for health care should not to be taken lightly. While specificity can be limited or comprehensive, some decisions designees make can include:

-- From which medical facilities you receive treatment.

--To deny or consent to your treatment(s).

-- Who may remain in contact with and visit you.

-- Decisions regarding organ donation unless your living will specifies otherwise.

Source: FindLaw, "Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Living Wills" Aug. 12, 2014

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