Get a medical power of attorney, doctors say

Health

DENVER (KDVR) — Now is the time to get a medical power of attorney and decide who and what should happen in case you get COVID-19 or another serious illness, doctors say.

Typically, these discussions about who should speak for you if you’re ill and how aggressive potentially end-of-life medical care should be are difficult. But the coronavirus pandemic is making them easier, said Dr. Dan Matlock, an associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine who specializes in geriatrics.

“It’s a good time because its on everybody’s mind,” Dr. Matlock said. “People are talking about it.”

“The easiest thing to start the conversation is just to acknowledge that while we’re feeling good, this is the easy time to have the conversation. Let’s not wait until things get bad. Then the conversation is going to be more difficult.”

Dr. Matlock said two things need to be discussed and eventually written down for a medical power of attorney.

“The thing to talk about first, is who speaks for you if something terrible does happen and you can’t speak for yourself,” Dr. Matlock said. He recommends talking with your family about this.

Also, decide how aggressive medical care should be.

“The default is to do a full resuscitation, chest compressions, breathing tubes if you need those,” Dr. Matlock said. “It’s not a fun process. We just don’t want that to happen to somebody if that’s not what they’re wanting to do with their lives.”

Once the decisions are made, write them down, date them, sign them and share that information with medical providers.

“I think one of the big misconception is that you need an attorney or a doctor to do this, but you don’t,” Dr. Matlock said.

A majority of patients do not have a medical power of attorney, according to Dr. Matlock. But that’s changing, in part, because of the coronavirus.

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