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Advance Directives

Advance Directive is a general term that refers to your verbal and written instructions about your medical care and decisions in the future, should you be unable to speak for yourself. When individuals are admitted to the hospital, they (or their family members) are asked if the individual has health care advance directives. If so and if a copy is available, it is made part of the patient’s hospital record.

Advance Directives (Types)

An Advance Directive is a document which states your choices for medical treatment or you name someone to make the choices for you if you are unable to make your own choices. Iowa law provides two types of advance directives: the Declaration Relating to Use of Life-Sustaining Procedures, known as a Living Will, and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

Living Will

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 recovery, 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 In a Living Will you may specify that certain life-sustaining procedures be withheld or withdrawn if you are in a terminal condition and unable to decide for yourself. However, medication or medical procedures that provide comfort or ease pain are not considered life-sustaining and are not withheld under a Living Will. A 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. Witnesses can not be:

  • Your doctor 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. There are notary publics available here at HCHC and at your local bank.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

A Durable Power of Attorney 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.

Advance Directive information and forms are available from the Iowa State Bar Association by clicking here.

See the list of web resources for links to other web sites with information to help you write your Advance Directives, answer frequently asked questions, and discuss Advance Directives and choices with your family.

For more information about advance directives, ask your healthcare provider.