As people age, the fears may become more and more real. Fears of dying surrounded by strangers in a healthcare facility or being strapped to medical machines that take away dignity and a sense of what makes life meaningful.
Advance medical directives help people face these fears by creating guidelines regarding the use of medical procedures. If you don't have such a document in place yet, or are helping your aging parent complete one, here are three important things to know.
In Colorado, "advance medical directives" come in five primary types.
Under Colorado law, advance medical directives is an inclusive term that applies to several different types of directives.
Perhaps the best known of these is a living will, also known as a "Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment."
Many people also know that it is possible to create a medical or healthcare power of attorney.
There are also these other types, however, of medical directives in Colorado:
- CPR orders/do-not-resuscitate orders
- Disposition of last remains declaration
- Organ and tissue donation declarations
With help from a skilled estate planning attorney, you can combine many of these directives into one document.
Lack of an advance directive can create conflict or confusion about who makes decisions if a person becomes incapacitated.
Many people lack advance directives. This lack can have significant consequences.
For one thing, in the absence of an advance directive establishing a medical power of attorney, medical providers are allowed under Colorado law to look to a proxy decision maker. The proxy decisionmaker is supposed to be chosen by "interested persons," which can include a spouse, parents, adult children, siblings and others.
This can be an awkward situation, trying to get consensus among such a group. With an advance directive, however, you can not only designate specifically who should play the proxy role. You can also specify who would decide whether you have become unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
Atul Gawande's book Being Mortal remains an important source for encouraging reflection within families on end-of-life planning issues.
In Being Mortal, the prominent doctor and writer Atul Gawande critiques the American healthcare system's failure to respond to people's desire to be treated with dignity at the end of life.
As we noted in a previous post, the book encourages families to engage in conversations about end-of-life issues so that medical care fits a person's values and promotes a meaningful life all the way to end. A skilled estate planning attorney can help convene such conversations and identify the legal steps needed to reach specified goals.