A health care power of attorney allows you to designate the person of
your choice, known as an attorney-in-fact, to make health and medical
decisions on your behalf. The attorney-in-fact is allowed to make
medical decisions without court supervision.
The attorney-in-fact can consent to health care treatment. The
attorney-in-fact can also refuse medical treatment and can withdraw
consent to previously administered health care treatment. Health care
refers to any care, treatment, service or procedure.
Choosing An Attorney-in-Fact
You can name any person you choose as your attorney-in-fact. Most people
choose a spouse or other family member. It is a good idea to nominate
an alternate in case your primary designee is unwilling or unable to
perform the necessary duties. However, it is not recommended that you
select two or more persons to act as co- attorneys-in-fact to avoid
conflicts in decision-making.
You can revoke a power of attorney at any time. You must communicate
your intent to revoke to your attorney-in-fact either orally or in
writing. If you are currently undergoing medical treatment, you should
also inform your health care provider.
A living will makes your wishes regarding life-sustaining procedures
known in writing. Your attorney-in-fact will carry out the stated wishes
in your living will.
A living will is a written document telling doctors and hospitals that
you do not want to have life-sustaining procedures performed if you
become terminally ill and cannot be involved in the decision-making
process, if the life-sustaining procedures would only prolong the
process of dying.
Any competent adult over the age of 18 can make a living will. The
living will can be made before or after diagnosis of a terminal illness.
The living will must be signed in front of two witnesses or a notary
public. Witnesses should be over the age of 18 and if possible should
not be relatives of the person making the living will. A health care
provider or the employees of a health care provider cannot act as
witnesses. The witnesses must also sign the living will.
What To Do With Your Living Will
The original living will must be given to your doctor. You are
responsible for providing the living will to the doctor who has the
primary responsibility for your care. This doctor is not necessarily
your family doctor, although you may want to give a copy to your family
doctor for his or her files. You should also tell your family that you
have made a living will. Federal law now requires medical facilities to
inform patients, before they are admitted, of the right to sign a health
care power of attorney or a living will.
Terminal Condition Defined
Iowa law defines a terminal condition as an incurable or irreversible
condition that, without life-sustaining procedures to a reasonable
degree of medical certainty.results in death within a relatively short
period, or a comatose state from which there can be no recovery.
Your attending physician decides if your condition is terminal.
Another doctor must confirm this determination. The conclusions must be
included in your medical records.
"Life-Sustaining Procedure” Defined
Iowa law defines life-sustaining procedures as any medical procedure that meets these requirements:
1. Use of a mechanical or artificial means to sustain, restore, or replace spontaneous vital function AND
2. Which when applied to a patient in a terminal condition, would only serve to prolong the process of dying.
You can revoke a living will at any time. To revoke a living will, you
or someone acting on your behalf, must inform your attending physician
of your intent to revoke. The attending physician must then enter your
intention into your medical record.