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Kevin O'Flaherty

This article will discuss Iowa living wills and give you an overview of different Iowa living will laws. There have been no substantial changes for 2024 to Iowa living wills. We discuss how to create a living will, what happens after creating a will, how Iowa classifies terminally ill individuals, and how healthcare ties into living wills. Be sure to stay up-to-date on any changes to estate planning laws in Iowa.


Iowa living wills

What is a Living Will in the State of Iowa?  

In the state of Iowa, a living will is a written will that tells your doctors and healthcare providers what to do if you need life-saving or life-sustaining procedures. Some of these life-sustaining procedures include CPR if you suffer from a terminal illness, or life-support if you can no longer breathe independently. If you do not wish to have such procedures performed on you if you become terminally sick and cannot be involved in your own decision-making process, a living will ensure that your wishes are met.  

How Do I Create A Valid Living Will In The State Of Iowa?  

Under the Iowa Code Chapter 144A Life-Sustaining Procedures Act, there are some requirements for creating a valid living will in Iowa. A living will must meet the following criteria in order to be valid:  

  1. The person creating the valid living will must be a mentally competent adult who is over the age of 18  
  1. The person creating the valid living will must sign the living will in the presence of at least two witnesses  
  1. At least one of the witnesses to the signing of the valid living will must not be related to the person executing the valid living will  
  1. The witnesses to the valid living will must sign the will in the presence of each other  
  1. The living will must be given to the attending physician  

If your living will in Iowa is validly created, your wishes concerning your healthcare decisions are legally enforced. These decisions are put into effect when your health condition takes a turn for the worse, and you can no longer make healthcare decisions for yourself.  

Another way to ensure that you are more in control of any life-altering decisions are made is to appoint a Healthcare Power of Attorney.  

Life Prolonging Acts And Specific Powers Under Your Iowa Living Will  

Under a validly executed living will in Iowa, you can declare your wishes and desires not to have life-sustaining procedures executed upon yourself. Life-sustaining procedures use artificial means to keep you alive or restore a vital physical function to your body. These procedures are typically used on patients whose conditions would medically be considered terminal. The procedures would only prolong the suffering and dying process. These include life support, intravenous medications, feeding tubes, etc. This does not include providing a patient with food or water unless the food or water is given intravenously or through intubation. Administering drugs or performing medical maneuvers to provide comfort or alleviate pain in a person who is subject to a living will is also not included and can be given to the patient with or without a declaration of a valid living will.  

I Created a Valid Living Will in Iowa, What Happens Next?  

The validly executed living will that you created must be given to all of your doctors and healthcare professionals responsible for your treatment if you become terminally ill. As the testator or the person who made the valid living, you are responsible for ensuring that the doctor who has the primary responsibility for your care has a copy of your living will. It would help if you informed your family that you created a living will so there are no disagreements or misunderstandings if you become terminally ill. Medical facilities are now required under Federal Law to inform a patient who is admitted into a healthcare facility of their rights to create and sign a living will or a healthcare power of attorney form.  

If you decide to appoint a trusted individual instead of creating a living will, they need to be aware of specific requirements and responsibilities for a healthcare power of attorney.  

Terminally ill in Iowa

What Does Terminally Ill Mean Under Iowa Law?  

Under Iowa law, a terminally ill person is someone who is suffering from a health condition that is considered incurable or irreversible. Without some form of life-sustaining treatment, their condition will result in vegetation, a coma, or possibly death within a relatively short period. There is typically a minimal chance of recovery for terminally ill patients.  

If your healthcare team decides that your condition is considered terminal, then another doctor must agree with the initial opinion of the doctor in charge of your case. These medical conclusions must be added to your medical records.  

What Is A Life-Sustaining Treatment Under Iowa Law?  

Under Iowa law, life-sustaining treatment is any medical treatment that meets the following criteria:  

  1. Use of any artificial or mechanical means to restore, replace, or to sustain spontaneous vital bodily functions, and  
  1. When applied to a patient who is suffering from a terminal condition, it would only prolong the patient's dying process  

An example of how a living will would be executed in a natural setting is as follows: A patient created a validly executed living will in the state of Iowa. The patient gave his validly executed will to his primary care physician, who is primarily responsible for the medical decisions pertaining to the patient. Three months ago, the patient was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and has suffered a massive heart attack, and is in a vegetative state. The patient's living will states that he did not desire any mechanical means or medical treatment to keep him alive. The attending physician is now faced with treatment options for the patient because the patient-directed in his living will that he did not want life-sustaining treatment, the doctor must honor his wishes, and his living will and not give the patient any medical treatment that would unnecessarily prolong his life. So long as the living will was created following all necessary criteria, the healthcare team is responsible for carrying out the patient's wishes.  

Revocation of a Living Will in the State of Iowa  

A living will in the state of Iowa can be revoked at any time by the person who created the living will. The attending physician and other healthcare providers will make the revocation a part of the patient's medical records. The only condition is that the patient must convey their desire to terminate the living will.  

Validly Executed Out-of-State Living Will  

If a validly executed living will was created out of state for a procedure occurring in Iowa, then as long as it conforms with Iowa laws about living wills, the state of Iowa will recognize the living will as valid.  

Healthcare providers

What Happens When Healthcare Providers Do Not Honor A Living Will  

A doctor must follow the living will that is validly executed in the state of Iowa. If the doctor refuses to follow the directions of the patient's living will for any reason, that doctor is then required to do everything in their power to transfer the patient to another healthcare facility or another doctor to ensure that the patient's wishes are carried out.    

Immunity For Attending Physician Or Other Healthcare Providers  

If a doctor or other healthcare provider honors a validly executed living will, they will not face criminal or civil liability or be guilty of unprofessional conduct. According to the living will, they are directed to legally carry out the patient's wishes pertaining to withholding life-sustaining procedures and treatment. It is their legal duty to do so.  


Contact a probate and estate planning lawyer today if you need assistance with creating or defending a living will or other estate planning issues. You can reach us at O'Flaherty Law at (630) 324-6666 or fill out our confidential contact form, and a member of our team will be in touch.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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