Also known as living wills, advance directives outline predetermined actions that should be taken in regards to your health if you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to incapacity or illness. These legally binding documents outline your wishes regarding life support, resuscitation, and other interventions for both your health care team and your family members.
If you establish Advance Directives, make sure members of your family know about them and where they are located. You’ll also want to share a copy with your primary care provider to include as part of your medical records. (Make sure to provide a new copy if your directives change.)
A living will is a written declaration that lets medical personnel know what kind of life-prolonging medical care you want to receive if you become ill with no hope of recover, are permanently unconscious, or in a vegetative state and unable to make your own decisions. In a Living Will you may specify that certain life-sustaining procedures be withheld or withdrawn if you are in a terminal condition and are unable to decide for yourself.
Medication or medical procedures that provide comfort or ease pain are not considered life-sustaining and are not withheld under a Living Will. Your Living Will should be signed, dated, and witnessed by two people, preferably people who know you well, but are not related to you or your potential heirs or your healthcare providers. Witness cannot be:
- Your primary care provider or other treating healthcare provider
- An employee of your treating healthcare provider
- The person you named as your healthcare attorney
- An individual who is less than 18 years of age.
In Iowa, your Living Will can be signed in front of two witnesses or by a notary public.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) is a written directive which names someone else to make your healthcare decisions if you become unable to make them. This can also include instructions about specific possible choices to be made. In creating a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you will choose a person to make health care decisions for you in case you are unable to do so, in accordance with your wishes. The person named should be someone you trust and who is willing to act in this capacity. It is also important to discuss your wishes with this person. A DPOA must be witnessed. In Iowa, your DPOA can be signed in front of two witnesses or by a notary public. The same rule applies as under the living will.