Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to make decisions about future medical care. They offer information to health care providers and family members about your health care preferences and are utilized when you become physically or mentally unable to make health care decisions. The most common documents are the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and the Living Will.
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document that allows you to appoint someone else, known as a health care agent, to make future decisions about your medical care. Your agent may be a family member or a friend and does not need to have any medical experience. The person named as your agent should be someone you trust who is capable of making health care decisions that reflect your values and preferences. This person has the legal authority to make all health care decisions if you become unable to do so. An alternate agent can be named as well. This document is very different from a General Power of Attorney, which is used for financial matters and often requires the use of an attorney.
The living will sometimes be referred to as a Declaration Relating to Use of Life-Sustaining Procedures, is a document that directs your physician to withhold or withdraw certain treatments that would prolong the dying process. This document is in effect only when you are near death or in an irreversible coma. Because of its limited use, most people prefer to complete a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and incorporate the language of a living will into that document, instead of doing both forms.
No. An attorney is not necessary when completing an advance directive.
Documents can be obtained, at no charge, through local hospitals or from the staff of Hospice of Dubuque.
Power of Attorney Health care forms that are most commonly seen in the Dubuque area, according to an individual's state of residence can be found at:
Iowa - Iowa Bar Association
Forms can be accessed by clicking on Public > Legal Forms > Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney
Illinois - Illinois Bar Association
Forms can be accessed by clicking on Forms & Publications > Advance Directives > Power of Attorney for Health Care
Wisconsin - Wisconsin Bar Association
Two free copies are available by sending a business-size self-addressed stamped envelope to Power of Attorney, Division of Health, PO Box 309, Madison, WI 53701-0309
Every type of advance directive requires a witness to the signature of the person creating the document. Witnessing requirements can vary for each state. Some states require that the signature be witnessed by two adults and some require the signature of a notary. Instructions for each document should be read carefully.
Following the completion of an advance directive, copies should be distributed to your physician, your agent(s), and the hospital of your choice. If you are receiving home health care or hospice services, or are a resident of a nursing home or assisted living facility, a copy should be provided to them as well. You should keep the original document yourself, and store it in a safe location that is easily accessible to and known by your family.
A Health Care Power of Attorney document can be changed easily at any time. It can be revoked orally, by simply stating you no longer want it to be in effect. A new document should be created whenever an existing document no longer reflects your wishes. The creation of a new document invalidates all previous documents. Copies of the previous document should be retrieved and destroyed to eliminate confusion.