As part of a person’s right to self-determination, every adult may accept or refuse any recommended medical treatment. This is relatively easy when people are well and can speak. Unfortunately, during severe illness people are often unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate their wishes at the very time when many critical decisions need to be made. Iowa law insures that the rights and desires of the seriously ill are honored. It provides that adults can direct, in advance, whether they want to be kept alive by artificial means in the event they become seriously ill and incapable of taking part in decisions regarding their medical care. This written Medical Directive is sometimes called a “living will.”
What the Medical Directive Does
The Medical Directive states your wishes regarding various types of medical treatment in several representative situations so that your desires can be respected. The Medical Directive also lets you appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you should become unable to make your own; this is an “attorney-in-fact,” a “proxy,” or “durable power of attorney.” Additionally, it contains a statement of your wishes concerning organ donation.
How to Make Your Medical Directive
You can use the clinic's Medical Directive form to record your own desires. You may want to discuss the issues with your family, friends or religious mentor, as well as your personal physician and attorney, before completing the form. Please refer to the last page of the form for details on the signing and witnessing of the Medical Directive.
What to do with Your Medical Directive
Place the original completed copy of the Medical Directive in safe place known and accessible to family members or close friends. Give one copy of the Medical Directive to your personal physician, one to your hospital and another to your designated proxy. You should also make copies to give to a family member or a friend, to ensure that it will be available if it is needed. Your physician should have a copy placed in your medical records and flagged so anyone involved in your care can be aware of its presence.
When the Medical Directive Takes Effect
The Medical Directive comes into effect only when you become incompetent, or unable to make decisions or to express your wishes. You may change or revoke your Medical Directive any time while you are competent. If you desire to change or revoke your Medical Directive, you must communicate that change or revocation to your attending physician in order for it to become effective.