A “living will” is a document that allows you to share your wishes about your medical care. See Iowa Code chapter 144A . This is similar to a health care power of attorney but instead of describing how a person would like to live, it describes how a person would like to die. This document allows you to tell health care providers and family members if you want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are terminally ill and not able to communicate or to make those decisions. Sometimes a living will is called an “advanced directive.” Hospitals are required by law to tell patients that they can execute a living will.
In order to create or “execute” a living will, the person must be competent as determined by the law and 18 years old or older. It must be signed in front of two witnesses who are adults or a notary. At least one witness must be unrelated to the person and the health care provider or its employees who are providing treatment at the time of executing the document cannot be witnesses. A living will can be revoked at any time no matter the mental or physical condition of the person revoking it. The decision to revoke the living will must be communicated to the physician or physician’s assistant treating the person.
Where can I get more information?
- Iowa Find-A-Lawyer is an online directory of attorneys provided by the Iowa State Bar Association. Information can also be found in its Older Iowans Handbook and a Living Will form is available here.
- Iowa Legal Aid is a non-profit agency that provides legal assistance to low-income and vulnerable Iowans. Information can be found on the Iowa Legal Aid website and they can be reached by phone at 800-532-1503 or, for Iowans 60 or older, 800-992-8161. Iowa Legal Aid also makes a Living Will form available here.