A living will is a document drawn up by a person of sound mind specifying the medical steps they wish to have taken if they are incapacitated by illness or injury and incapable of making their wishes known. In Colorado, this kind of document is known as a “Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment.” Simply put, this outlines whether or not you want “life sustaining procedures” to be taken on your behalf. A life sustaining procedure is defined as anything prolonging life without offering any cure, such as:
• Artificial respiration
• Intravenous food or liquid
Unlike many other states, if you wish to specifically ensure that CPR is not performed in the case of cardiac arrest, you are required to have a separate form for this, known as a “CPR directive.” While ordinary living wills do not require you to consult a doctor, to obtain this kind of form you must receive it from a doctor or the Colorado Department of Health, and only after a consultation.
Anyone over the age of 18 may draft a Declaration as to Medical or Surgical Treatment. An attorney is not required. Though there is no set template to follow, most such forms will include at the top two reasons you may wish to have life sustaining procedures terminated:
• Two physicians agree that you are terminally ill, have no hope of recovery, and are incapable of voicing your wishes
• You have been in a comatose state for at least seven days or otherwise incapable of voicing your wishes
You will be required to choose from three options specifically regarding artificial intravenous nourishment:
• Artificial nourishment can be withdrawn if it is the only medical procedure being performed
• Artificial nourishment will be performed for a set number of days, specified by you, and will be stopped after this time if it is the only medical procedure being performed
• Artificial nourishment will be continued regardless of your state
Because there is no template, you may include as much relevant additional information as instructions as you see fit. Some things you may wish to include:
• Instructions as to whether any or all of your organs can be donated after your death
• Whether these organs can be used for transfers, medical research or other purposes
• If you are religious, any procedures you wish to be carried out
Two witnesses must provide their signatures and addresses. The living will should not be signed until these witnesses are present. Neither of these people can be your health care provider or work for a health care provider. If you have drafted a document appointing another person as your agent if you are incapacitated, that person is also not permitted to be a witness.
After this document has been drawn up, it can be revoked or altered at any time assuming you are in good mental health. It is advisable to give your physician a copy so that your wishes can be easily ascertained.