Everyone! Colorado law does not name a hierarchy of persons who can serve as the patient’s agent. This means if a patient presents at a hospital and has no Medical Power of Attorney on file, the hospital staff must try to reach an “interested person.” This can be a spouse, parent, child, relative, or friend. It is that person’s responsibility to reach out to all the other interested people and derive a consensus on who should serve as an agent.
In an emergency, decisions must be made very quickly, and those decisions might touch on some of the most personal beliefs a person can have about topics such as when life ends, what constitutes extraordinary medical treatment, when life-extending medical treatment is worth the cost, and when diminished quality of life justifies the cessation of life-sustaining medical treatment.
Even families that get along well with one another can quickly find themselves at odds over irreversible, life-or-death decisions that need to be made quickly. For families that don’t get along well, or for blended families, in which the stakeholders may not have ever been particularly close with one another, this can be a highly combustible situation. Everyone should have a medical power of attorney to help navigate unpredictable moments such as these.