Advance Medical 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, but there are forms available at hospitals and senior centers.  A form called “Five Wishes” is popular and it can be completed in a way that is very specific about your medical wishes.

A Living Will is your written instructions about life support.  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must determine in writing that you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state before life support may be withdrawn pursuant to your Living Will.  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 and talk to your doctor, should you not be able to make or communicate medical decisions.  An 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 by two adults or notarized and it may be revised or revoked at any time while you are competent.

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.  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.

Tamra K. Waltemath

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:

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