Advanced Directive is the legal term used to describe a plan of action for medical providers to take in the event an individual needing treatment is no longer able to make his/her own decisions due to illness or injury. An Advanced Directive can take out the guess work of making a difficult decision for family members who are faced with such extreme and stressful circumstances.
Advanced Directives are especially important in this day and age where technology has given medical providers several options for life-sustaining measures. Life sustaining measures can be defined as, "Any medical treatment in which the primary goal is to prolong life rather than treat the underlying condition." Some examples include feeding tubes, ventilators, dialysis, etc. In cases where life-sustaining measures are explored, the individual’s own body is not capable of sustaining proper functioning on its own without medical intervention.
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.
You can download these legal documents from the Iowa State Bar Association.
A living will is a written statement 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, if you are permanently unconscious, or if you are 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 In a Living Will, you may specify that certain life-sustaining procedures be withheld or withdrawn if you are in a terminal condition and unable to decide for yourself.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, are over the age of 18, and people who are not related to you or your potential heirs or your healthcare providers.
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 Crawford County Memorial Hospital and at your local bank.
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 document can also include instructions on what decisions you would like to be made in certain situations. The person provided with your Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) 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. In Iowa, your DPOA can be signed in front of two witnesses or by a notary public.