Generally, end-of-life planning is a buzz kill. We don’t like to think about our own mortality, but without planning ahead, we could end up with our loved ones fighting over whether to “pull the plug” on us. Living wills are legal documents that can help you avoid this problem. A living will informs your health care providers of your wishes for artificial feeding, hydration and other life sustaining acts, should you become unable to communicate your wishes.
Living wills are frequently created in tandem with a health care power of attorney. A health care power of attorney legally creates a person or agent who’ll speak on your behalf for health care when you are unable to do so. For more information, see the Iowa Durable Power of Attorney Laws article. There are also financial power of attorneys that you may want to create as well.
The following chart outlines the main provisions of the living will laws in Iowa.
||Iowa Code Chapter 144A – Life-Sustaining Procedures Act
|Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will
||To create a valid living will or declaration relating to the use of life-sustaining procedures in Iowa, you must:
- Be a competent adult over 18 years old
- Sign the living will in the presence of two witnesses
- At least one witness must not be related to you
- The witnesses must sign in each other’s presence
- Give the living will to the attending physician
If validly created, your wishes are given effect when your condition is terminal and you can’t make treatment decisions. However, a living will won’t be followed through with when the patient is pregnant if the fetus can develop to a live birth.
|Specific Powers and Life-Prolonging Acts
||You can declare a desire to not have life-sustaining procedures used to prolong your life. Life-sustaining procedures are those that utilize mechanical or artificial means to sustain or restore a spontaneous vital function that when applied to a terminal patient would only serve to prolong the dying process.
This doesn’t include providing food or water except when required intravenously or though intubation. Also, administering drugs or performing medical procedures to provide comfort or alleviate pain aren’t included and can be done with or without declaration.
|Revocation of Living Will
||A living will or declaration can be revoked at any time in any manner that the patient can communicate intent to revoke, without regard to the mental or physical condition of the patient. The doctor will make the revocation a part of the patient’s medical records.
|Validity of Out-of-State Living Wills
||A similar advance health care directive legal document executed in another state that complies with that state’s laws is valid and enforceable in Iowa, to the extent the document is consistent with Iowa law.
|If Physician Unwilling to Follow Living Will
||A doctor will take all reasonable steps to transfer a patient to another doctor or facility if he or she is unwilling to comply with the patient’s requests or out-of-hospital do not resuscitate (DNR) order.
|Immunity for Attending Physician
||Health care providers aren’t liable civilly or criminally or guilty of unprofessional conduct for complying in good faith with the provisions of a patient’s declaration indicating a request to withhold or withdrawal life-sustaining procedures.
You can draft a living will on your own by using various online sample forms. However, to ensure the document’s legitimacy in Iowa, you may want to consult with an experienced Iowa estate planning lawyer.
Note: Because state laws are updated regularly, you should verify these health care laws by conducting your own legal research or asking a lawyer.
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