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Living Wills

The following information on advance directives is intended for informational purposes only and is subject to revision as the laws are changed. Specific questions should be directed to your physician or attorney, or you may contact a Mercy Chaplain at (515) 247-3238.

A Living Will is a document directing your physician that certain life-sustaining procedures should be withheld or withdrawn if you are in a terminal condition and unable to decide for yourself. It is a legally binding document that takes effect only when you have a terminal condition and are unable to make decisions about your health care.

A life-sustaining procedure is any mechanical or artificial means which sustains, restores or supplants a vital body function and which would only prolong the dying process for a terminally ill patient (i.e. a mechanical respirator). Medication or medical procedures necessary to provide comfort or ease pain are not life-sustaining procedures and would not be withheld under a Living Will. Iowa’s Living Will law does not permit withholding nutrition or hydration (food or water) unless the patient receives them through a feeding tube or intravenously.

A terminal condition is an irreversible condition that, without life-sustaining procedures, will result in death in a relatively short time or a state of permanent unconsciousness from which there is no likely recovery. The determination of a terminal condition must be made by the attending physician following consultation with another physician.

Special note on Living Wills executed before April 23, 1992:

The Iowa General Assembly made changes to the Living Will law in 1992. If you completed a Living Will before April 23, 1992 (the effective date of the new law), your Living Will may not allow for withdrawal or withholding of intravenous feeding or feeding tubes if you are in a permanent state of unconsciousness with no likely hope of recovery but are not about to die soon. In that case, your physician may only withdraw or withhold intravenous feeding or feeding tubes if you specifically stated that it should occur under those circumstances. If you did not make such specifications, you may want to complete a new Living Will. You should consult your attorney for advice.


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