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What type of medical care would you want if you were too ill or injured to speak for yourself? Advance care planning helps you think through and communicate your choices to the people closest to you and to your healthcare providers.
Iowa law supports the basic right of all adults to control decisions about their own medical care. You have the right to decide whether you want to receive certain medical treatments or interventions, for example, being placed on a ventilator or other life-sustaining procedures.
Advance directives consist of two main legal documents – a living will and medical power of attorney. Your advanced planning documents can also include a DNR (do not resuscitate) order and an organ/tissue donor card.
The technical name of this document is a “declaration related to life-sustaining procedures.” According to the National Institutes of Health, it is a written document that indicates how you want to be treated if you are dying or permanently unconscious and cannot make decisions about emergency treatment. In a living will, you can say which life-sustaining procedures you would want, which ones you wouldn’t want and under which conditions each of your choices applies.
Learn more about living wills.
Known as a “durable power of attorney for health care decisions,” this document lets you name a healthcare proxy, someone who will make medical decisions for you when you’re unable to do so. Your proxy should be someone familiar with your wishes and is willing to carry them out for you should the need arise.
Learn more about medical power of attorney.
The more you plan in advance, the more clarity you provide to your family when tough decisions arise. Talk through your priorities with the people you love and let them know your reasoning. When it comes to a healthcare proxy, choose someone who is comfortable with the role and clear-headed about what it means. Ultimately, advance directives relieve stress and eliminate second-guessing during very difficult times.
Although a living will and medical power of attorney are legal documents, you don’t need a lawyer to complete them. You can use these links to download the forms from the website of the Iowa State Bar Association:
We also have these forms at The Ghosh Center. Once you complete them, you’ll need the forms to be signed by two witnesses. You’ll need to sign the forms in the presence of a notary public, so DO NOT SIGN them until you are with the person who will notarize them. Terri Hamilton, our receptionist, is a notary public who can provide this service.
If you already have a living will and/or medical power of attorney on file at a local hospital, let us know. We can then access it and make it part of your record here. If the forms are in your possession, you can bring them in for us to scan them.
Advance care planning is for everyone. In fact, it’s recommended that you begin discussing your wishes at age 18 and revisit them throughout your life. Your choices will evolve as your life progresses, and your advance care documents should be living documents that evolve along with your circumstances, values and beliefs.
Get in-depth information about advance care planning.
Watch a video about advance directives.