With these words Shakespeare’s Hamlet explores whether he wants to continue his life or he wants to voluntarily end it (via suicide). Hamlet is consciously making a life/death (arguably a “health care”) decision for himself.
What if Hamlet suffered from a stroke (rather than grief) and although he was unable to communicate his wishes, he could either live forever on life support or otherwise pass peacefully?
What if Hamlet was unconscious from a car accident and an immediate decision had to be made regarding amputating a limb?
What if Hamlet’s grief caused him to become clinically depressed to the point he was irrational, and refused to see his doctor?
Fortunately for all the Hamlets, there is an opportunity to address these situations in a “proactive” manner. It has the additional benefit of relieving your family from the burden of trying to determine who should make these decisions if you cannot make them for yourself. Finally, it is relatively easy and cheap. It is called a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.”
The Iowa Code provides that any person over the age of 18 can appoint some other adult to make a “health care decision” for them if they cannot make one for themselves. A “heath care decision” is very broadly defined as a decision to consent or withdraw consent for any care, treatment, service or procedure to maintain, diagnose or treat an individual’s physical or mental condition. “Heath care decisions” include, but are not limited to, use of, or the withdrawal of, “life sustaining procedures.” That said, the holder of the power of attorney for health care cannot consent to ANY treatment or procedure intended to alleviate pain.
The appointment is not “permanent.” It can be changed at any time, and as often as necessary. Further, the appointment can be revoked at any time. Further, so long as you are capable of making health care decisions for yourself, the appointee makes NO decisions regarding your condition.
Most people appoint their spouse as their first choice and a relative as an alternate if their spouse cannot or will not serve. The holder of the power of attorney need not be a resident of Iowa, but should be an individual with sufficient knowledge of your wishes, and the courage, to make a health care decision the same way you would.
If you move to another State, your power of attorney for health care should be recognized in your new location.
“To be, or not to be?” The answer is ultimately up to you, but by establishing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you relieve your family of a potentially divisive situation and you have the peace of mind that the person making the health care decision for you will make it the same way you would.
Please feel free to contact us at 515-727-0900 if you would like assistance regarding powers of attorney for health care, other estate planning issues, or any business law matters.