In December of 2016, Colorado enacted The End-of-Life Options Act, known to some as the Death with Dignity law. The End-of-Life Options Act (the “Act”) enables terminally ill individuals the right to use prescribed medication to end their lives. Although many individuals do not think about how the Act could impact estate planning matters, it does. There are critical estate planning measures individuals with terminal illnesses must take to aid their loved ones after their death.
But first, let’s do a quick review on how the Act works. To request a prescription for life-ending medication in Colorado, a patient must be:
- 18 years old;
- A Colorado resident;
- Mentally capable of making and communicating health care decisions; and
- Diagnosed with a terminal disease in which they will die over the next six months.
Beyond these requirements, the patient will only be prescribed the medicine if they make three requests—two verbal and one written— for the medicine at least fifteen days apart in front of two qualified, adult witnesses. The doctor must also offer the patient the opportunity to withdraw the request for the medication before providing the prescription.
For individuals with a terminal illness, it is critical to have an estate plan in place before they pass away. This is because an estate plan explains how individuals want to be cared for in their final days and what measures should be taken—this can include taking actions legalized under the Act. A Medical Durable Power of Attorney provides instructions on the medical interventions an individual want to be taken, and who should make decisions on the individual’s behalf if they become incapacitated. Additionally, creating an estate plan provides for how, and to whom, that individual wants his or her assets to be distributed.
While creating an estate plan—and specifically making end-of-life decisions—may be uncomfortable, it alleviates a major source of stress for not only the terminally ill individual, but his or her family and friends. If you are interested in setting up an estate plan, or just obtaining a Medical Durable Power of Attorney, please contact Anne McMichael via email ([email protected]) or via telephone at 303-572-4200.