One of the most important decisions every adult should record in writing is what should happen if they end up in a coma for a sustained period or in a persistent vegetative state. Popularly known as a living will, an advanced medical directive instructs your loved ones and healthcare providers regarding which life-sustaining treatments should be continued, and for how long, if doctors determine that you are in a persistent vegetative state or are otherwise unresponsive and in a terminal condition. Your living will can, for instance, instruct healthcare personnel to discontinue certain extraordinary medical treatments or cease providing nutrition and hydration if doctors determine you have no hope of recovering consciousness. Alternatively, you could instruct that life-sustaining be continued indefinitely.
Under Colorado law, a life-sustaining measure refers to any procedure that prolongs your inevitable death including resuscitation, use of defibrillators, or surgery. Whatever you choose, doctors will take all measures to minimize your suffering with medication and other palliative care.
Although you can draft a living will on your own (so long as you are at least 18 and competent), it makes sense to have a living will lawyer do it for you to ensure that it is legally effective and accomplishes your goals and intentions. If you do not have a document that clearly sets forth your wishes, your loved ones will have to ask a court to appoint one of them as your guardian to make these decisions for you, and then guess what you would have wanted. This frequently becomes the source of significant family tension, and even litigation.
Requirements for a Living Will
To be legally effective in Colorado, your living will needs to be signed by two witnesses, neither of whom can be:
- Your doctor or health care provider
- Anyone employed by your health care provider
- A person who may be a beneficiary or entitled to a share of your estate
- A creditor
You can revoke or change your living will at any time, so long as you are mentally competent. You should inform your loved ones that you have a living will, and let them know what decisions you have made. And of course, if you change or revoke it, you should let them know. You should also provide a copy of your living will to your health care providers.
Consult the McKenzie Law Firm
Dan McKenzie is a Denver living will attorney who has counseled numerous clients regarding these and other advanced health care directives for over 10 years. You should include a living will as part of your overall estate plan. Have attorney Dan McKenzie draw up a living will that you can be sure clearly expresses your wishes should certain life-ending events occur.