Making Your Health Care Decisions: Understanding Colorado Advance Directives | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



At RMHP, we know planning for the future is important – especially when it comes to your health care. Advance directives can help you prepare for times when you might need care, but you’re unable to make treatment decisions.

What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is written instruction for the health care and medical treatment you want if you become unable to make those decisions when they are needed. It is written when you are able to make these decisions and before care is needed. Then, if there is a time when you are unable to make decisions about your medical treatment, the instructions will be followed. Even if you have an advance directive, you still have the right to decide what treatment you want at the time care is needed, if you are able to do so.

What are the Types of Advance Directives?

There are three types:

  • A CPR Directive, sometimes called a DNR or Do Not Resuscitate order, tells emergency health care personnel and others not to perform CPR on you. CPR means cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
  • A Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA) allows you to name a person who can make health decisions for you.
  • A Living Will applies only in cases of terminal illness, or a disease or injury that leads to death.

It’s important to talk to your doctor, family, and other people about your choices, or if you make changes. You should always give copies of your advance directive(s) to those who might be involved in your medical care, like your doctor and family members.

What is the Law?

There are federal and state laws, which is why it’s important to understand your rights about your health care decisions.

  • You will not be refused treatment, services, or admission to a facility if you do not have an advance directive. You have the right to accept or refuse any medical care and treatment, unless care is ordered by a court.
  • Your consent to CPR, health care, and treatment is assumed in an emergency. You will be told about Colorado’s laws regarding your right to make health care decisions. You must be given information about advance directives each time you are admitted as a patient or become a resident of:
    • Any health care facility, nursing home, an HMO, hospice, home health care, or a personal care program that receives federal funds that receives federal funds, like Medicare or Medicaid funds.
    • You must also be given written information about the facility and provider’s policies about this documentation.

If you do not complete an MDPOA while you are able to make your own decisions, Colorado law offers two options:

  • A person close to you can be a Proxy Decision Maker for Healthcare (Proxy), or a substitute decision maker. When a doctor has determined that you are not able to make your own decisions, he or she must make reasonable efforts to contact those close to you, like family members and close friends, and gather as many interested persons as possible. Then, that group must choose one person to be your Proxy.
  • If the group cannot pick a Proxy, or if the group cannot agree about certain decisions, a court might appoint a guardian to make medical care and treatment decisions. Any person age 21 or over, or an appropriate agency, can be a guardian.

Learn More

It’s important to understand advance directives and how they can help you prepare for future health care, if needed. You can ask your provider or RMHP for more information or for an advance directives form. You can also find more information here. The Colorado Advance Directives Coalition also worked with the Colorado Hospital Association to create a resource called Your Right to Make Health Care Decisions. Download the document here