Giving Voice to the Voiceless: The Colorado Response to Unrepresented Patients

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Medical decision making on behalf of unrepresented patients is one of the most challenging ethical issues faced in clinical practice. The legal environment surrounding these patients is equally complex. This article describes the efforts of a small coalition of interested healthcare professionals to address the issue in Colorado. A brief history of the effort is presented, along with discussion of the legal, ethical, practical, and political dimensions that arose in Colorado's effort to address decision making for unrepresented patients through an extension of the existing Colorado Medical Treatment Decision Act (CRS 15-18). A discussion of lessons learned in the process is included.

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