Interest in living wills increases
February 26, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY Two locals died after days on life support following tragic ski accidents recently, proving a living will is an important document to have, according to local attorneys.There has definitely been an increase in the number of people in Summit County interested in living wills, said Felice Huntley at the law offices of West, Brown, Huntley and Thompson in Breckenridge. People are seeing these scenarios play out both locally and nationally, and know that its important to be prepared.Advances in medical technology have allowed patients who formerly would have died to be kept alive through artificial means. Under the living will law, these patients have the personal right to decide whether to initiate, continue or terminate such treatment.Individuals are encouraged to establish a living will so they have the final say as to what can be done to their body if they should become unable to make decisions for themselves. A living will gives your specific personal instructions, Huntley said, and the power of attorney designates a person to make decisions for you should you be unable to do so.It is important for individuals to research their options when it comes time to draft a living will or medical power of attorney. Although it could be controversial, it is crucial for individuals to decide what kind of treatment they would be willing to undergo should they be unable to decide for themselves. In addition to conveying your wishes regarding life support, individuals can also indicate whether or not they want to receive artificial nourishment, said Huntley. When writing a living will, individuals decide which types of medical care and treatment they approve and refuse. While every case is different, some people feel that extending life when death is imminent is only extending the suffering and prolonging of the dying process. Because there are many different views on life support, attorneys say it is important for individuals to document their wishes to help avoid a divided family.One thing a living will does not cover is the protocol to follow if a person should fall into a coma. Given that patients in comas can go on to live indefinitely, it is important that an individual clearly communicates their wishes regarding what action can be taken while they are in a coma.In addition to discussing options with an attorney, individuals should also consult their physician about future health care desires. Refusing one kind of treatment can make it impossible to administer another kind of treatment. Although it is sometimes an uncomfortable subject, it is important to discuss artificial life support options with family and friends. While family members often have little legal authority to make life support decisions, they usually feel they have a moral authority. Its not hard to draft up a living will, and it can make things so much easier for your loved ones, Huntley said. In the end, documenting clear guidelines will help sidestep legal complications and ensure individual wishes are met without being contested. Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Under current Colorado law, a living will only becomes effective when two physicians certify a patient is terminally ill, and for a period of at least 48 hours, that patient has been unconscious, comatose, or otherwise unable to make or communicate decisions regarding care.Source: West, Brown, Huntley and Thompson law offices.