A Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney can put you in control about the care and treatment you receive when your health deteriorates. That is why it is important to know what these documents are.

A Living Will informs your health care provider that when you are in a terminally ill or permanently unconscious condition you do not want him or her to perform any life-sustaining procedures that would merely prolong the dying process.

A Medical Power of Attorney applies any time you are, in the opinion of your physician, unable to make your own health care decisions. In these situations, an agent steps in and makes those decisions for you. The agent is someone that you designate in the Medical Power of Attorney document, such as a family member that you trust and that knows you well. You can include specific instructions for your agent to follow. Otherwise, the agent will act based upon the information he or she has at that time.

A Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney (these are frequently contained in the same document) can be prepared by an attorney and should be kept in a safe place. Copies should be provided to your health care providers, designated agent, and loved ones.

A Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) order, in contrast, is a medical order issued and signed by your health care provider that states you do not want to be resuscitated or your heart restarted when your heart stops beating or you stop breathing. In the state of Iowa, you can also obtain what is called an Iowa Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (IPOST) which is a medical order that must be signed by your health care provider that allows you to communicate your preferences for life-sustaining treatments, including but not limited to resuscitation, the use of medical interventions during a medical emergency, and the use of artificial nutrition. You should talk to your health care provider if you have any questions about a DNR and/or IPOST order.

If you have any questions about a Living Will and/or Medical Power of Attorney, feel free to contact a Moore, Heffernan estate planning attorney to discuss in further detail.