Areas of Practice:

Elder Law
Estate Planning
Wills and Trusts
Estate Administration
Trust Administration
Real Estate

Health Care Directives

Adults in Colorado have the legal right to consent to or refuse medical treatment under the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1990. You may make your wishes regarding medical treatment known by utilizing advance medical directives. Advance medical directives include a Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment (often referred to as a Living Will), Medical Durable Powers of Attorney, Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation directives (CPR) and Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders. CPR directives and DNR orders must be obtained from your physician or from licensed health care facilities. Living Wills and Medical Durable Powers of Attorney are often obtained from attorneys.

A Living Will is your personal statement that gives your doctor instructions about how long you want to be on life support, if you are terminal or in a persistent vegetative state. Any competent person 18 years or older may sign a Living Will. Under Colorado Law, two doctors must determine in writing that you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state, before life support may be withdrawn pursuant to your Living Will. You have the right to determine how many days life support should be provided to you, after the determination is made that you are terminal or in a persistent vegetative state. Your family may object to withdrawing life support for the first 48 hours. A Living Will must be witnessed by two people and the witnesses cannot be your doctor, your doctor’s employees, medical facility employees, any person to whom you owe money or any person entitled to your estate upon your death. You can revoke your Living Will at any time either verbally or in writing.

A Medical Durable Power of Attorney is a document in which you name an “agent” to make medical decisions for you, should you not be able to make or communicate medical decisions. An agent may make many types of medical decisions for you. Your agent’s authority is not limited to making a decision regarding whether or not you should be kept alive on life support, your agent may make decisions regarding medications, surgery and many other medical procedures. It is very important that you name an agent who knows what quality of life you want for yourself and your desires for medical treatment. An agent under a Medical Durable Power of Attorney cannot make decisions over your objection if you are competent to make decisions for yourself and you are able to make your decisions known to others. A Medical Durable Power of Attorney should be witnessed or notarized and it may be revised or revoked at any time while you are competent.

Medical Durable Powers of Attorney and Living Wills should indicate which document controls should there be a conflict between your agent’s wishes and your written instructions. In other words, your documents should state whether you would like your agent to have the last word regarding life sustaining procedures administered to you or if you would like your Living Will to be followed regardless of the wishes of your agent. It is also a good idea to have instructions on your Living Will or your Medical Power of Attorney regarding whether you would like to be an organ donor at your death, and you may state what you would like your organs donated for (transplantation to others and or medical research). The more directions you can give to your agent, the easier it will be for your agent to follow your wishes.

Your primary care physician should be given a copy of any advance directive you have signed, so that they are aware of your instructions and who you want to make decisions for you should you not be able to make decisions for yourself. You should also bring a copy of your advance medical directives with you if you are admitted to a hospital or other medical facility so your directives may be placed in your records at the facility. If you update or revise these documents it is very important that you give the updated documents to your physician or the facility and instruct your physician to destroy the old documents.

It is very important to have advance directives in case you are unable to speak for yourself. You may not get the care you desire if you do not have medical directives or if your directives are not known to your physician and your health care agent(s). Your medical directive must be clear, concise and current. You must name someone to speak on your behalf that is aware of your desires and is comfortable following your wishes.

This article was written by Tamra K Waltemath of Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C. This information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific questions, you should consult a qualified attorney. Tamra K. Waltemath is an elder law attorney focusing on wills, trusts, estate and trust administration, probate and non-probate transfers, guardianships and conservatorships. She can be contacted at: Tamra K. Waltemath, P.C., 3843 West 73rd Avenue, Westminster, CO 80030; 303-657-0360; or visit her website at:


The Henry Law Office Building
3843 West 73rd Avenue
Westminster, Colorado 80030

Open 8:00-6:00 Monday through Thursday
Ph: 303-657-0360
FAX: 303-429-2552