Understanding the Law - Living Wills in Iowa

This is something most of us do not like to think about, but what happens if you suddenly become seriously ill and you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself? Without advance directives like a Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Living Will, your family and loved ones have to make medical decisions on your behalf, including in some cases whether or not to prolong your life through the use of medical technology. A Living Will allows you to decide what is worth tolerating to prolong the process of dying, and keeps control of your life in your own hands. A Living Will extends your autonomy to a time when you can no longer speak for yourself by allowing you to influence future health care situations.

What is a Living Will?

The Declaration Relating to the Use of Life-Sustaining Procedures is the legal name in Iowa for a Living Will, which is a legal document that instructs the treating physicians to withhold or withdraw certain medical treatments referred to as life-sustaining procedures), which sometimes prolong the process of death. A living will only becomes effective in two situations: when your doctor puts in writing that you are either expected to die soon and cannot make health decisions for yourself because you are unconscious or unable to think or reason; or because you are permanently unconscious, either in a persistent vegetative state or an irreversible coma. Iowa law requires a second doctor to also examine you and confirm your doctor’s findings for the Living Will to become effective.

What Does a Living Will Contain?

A Living Will says that if you have a condition that will cause your death, you do not want the medical professionals caring for you to lengthen your life through the use of drugs, machines, or any other treatments. It also gives the doctor permission to start or stop any treatments that has the sole purpose of stopping you from dying. However, anything that will make you more comfortable should not be stopped or avoided, and that should be specified in the text. Pain medication, oral feeding, and hydration are not considered “life sustaining procedures”) and will be provided to you unless you specifically write otherwise.

Dotting the “i’s” and Crossing the “t’s”

To become legally binding, the Living will must be signed, dated, and witnessed by two people who are over the age of 18, know you well, and are not related to you or your potential heirs. You can also use a notary public as a witness. Once you have executed a Living Will, it is up to you to make sure your doctor and hospital have a copy. You can cancel your Living Will at any time by communicating to your doctor or agent that it is no longer in effect.

Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff Can Help

With offices conveniently located in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, the experienced estate planning attorneys at the Iowa law firm of Whitaker Hagenow & Gustoff can help you plan your estate in a cost-effective way, and draft your Living Will in accordance with your wishes. Call or email us today for an initial consultation.


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