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Medical Power of Attorney

Choosing your Health Care Agent 


One of the most important decisions you will make in your advance care planning is choosing whom you want to make decisions for you if you cannot — your “health care agent.”


In Colorado you have the right to choose whomever you wish to be your health care agent. It is important to choose someone who:


  • is willing and available (preferably not, for instance, living in another state),

  • knows your values and life goals and your preferences for life-sustaining treatment,

  • will honor and follow your wishes,

  • is able to make difficult choices, usually under stress, and

  • has the time and commitment to serve as your agent for however long is necessary.


Remember, your agent need not be your spouse or someone closely related to you. In fact, those closest to you might have the hardest time serving as your decision maker because their own feelings or values might get in the way. (If you pick your spouse and later divorce or legally separate, your spouse will be disqualified to serve.)


Your agent can be a family member or friend or even legal or religious advisor. It is also a good idea to choose an alternate agent, in case your first choice is unavailable, unwilling, or unable to serve when needed.


You can decide whether you want the agent’s authority to begin right away or only after it has been determined that you cannot make your own choices. Note: This determination is usually made by a physician or other health care professional with special training. It can be very difficult to asses, especially as the “capacity” of a person who is seriously ill to make decisions can vary a great deal, even over the course of a single day. If you trust your agent (and you should!) an immediate power of attorney avoids having to go through this process.


Above all, be sure to talk to the people you want as your agent and alternate before you officially appoint them. Make sure they understand your wishes and agree to serve. And give them each a copy of all your advance directives, especially the Medical Durable Power of Attorney.


If your choice for agent is not a family member, be sure your family members know about your choice and how to contact the agent and alternate. If possible, it would be a good idea for you and your agent to talk with your primary doctor about the kinds of medical decisions that might be likely and the options available.


Your agent and your doctor should have a copy of the MDPOA form and any written advance directives you have completed.


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