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Legal Issues

Living Wills and Medical Directives in Light of COVID - August 5, 2020

First and foremost, let’s address a common misconception we’re seeing right now: a Living Will is NOT the same as a Last Will and Testament.


The terms “living will” and “medical directives” are hot topics currently as many people are newly thinking about their desires for ongoing healthcare if they were to be seriously affected by COVID-19.


What is a living will?

A living will states a person’s wishes relating to life-sustaining procedures. In Iowa, this is called a Declaration Relating to Life Sustaining Procedures.


How is that different than medical directive?

The broader term, medical directives, covers a person’s wishes surrounding certain medical procedures and end-of-life care. The term advanced directives is also used fairly commonly, though that can also refer to powers of attorney.  


Medical directives can be broad, or very specific. Sometimes, individuals have included specific directions relating to ventilators, tube feeding, or pain management. If you previously prepared these documents, now is a good time to review the specific provisions. Many clients are rethinking some of the directives they put in place before COVID and want to make edits now.


Another option

Instead of completing a very specific document stating “Yes” or “No” to specific procedures, another option is to have conversations with the person you are naming as your medical power of attorney so that he or she is aware of your wishes.


By leaving the decision in that person’s hands, he or she can look at all the facts and circumstances, advocate on your behalf when you are unable to so, and have the flexibility to apply your wishes to different situations.


Make sure to have these conversations with the person you are naming as your medical power of attorney and ensure they are willing to act on your behalf, as it is an incredibly difficult and stressful situation to make these serious decisions on behalf of another. If your medical power of attorney is not comfortable with the flexibility, you may need to reconsider a medical directive or find another, willing, person to serve as your medical power of attorney.


Big Picture

Whether you are thinking about COVID-19 or the natural course of human health, it is important to consider and communicate your wishes to those you love. A medical directive might be the right choice for you, or you may be able to have an honest conversation with the person you have chosen as your medical power of attorney.

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