The Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare are
designed to either help you dictate your own care plan before the
fact or grant broad authority to others to make healthcare decisions on
your behalf in the event you are unable to do so.
Advance Directives are a right of the patient, not a requirement of
the hospital. However, these documents can spare your family members
the anguish of trying to second-guess your final wishes if faced with a
The living will makes it possible for the patient to dictate
specific treatment plans for medical conditions considered terminal.
Durable power of attorney (DPOA)
This is used in cases where patients are unable to make their own
healthcare decisions. Instead, those choices fall to another individual
- granted that authority by the patient.
DPA is not related in any way to the financial power of attorney. No
one can sign an advance directive on behalf of a non-responsive or
incompetent patient - not even someone assigned as legal power of
attorney or guardianship.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
This is a doctor's order created in consultation with the patient
and family. It stipulates that no procedures be attempted to restore
life for someone facing an irreversible condition, other than to
maintain physical comfort. By comparison, Living Wills and DPAs are
solely the prerogative of the patient.
When to complete
Even if you are in good health, you might want to consider signing
Advance Directives. Far too many Advance Directives are created under
extreme duress. An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly, and
if you already have these documents in place, your wishes are more
likely to be followed.
Who can help me create an Advance Directive?
St. Luke's Spiritual Care staff has extensive experience helping
patients and their families complete Advance Directives, free of
Forms are available in the Spiritual Care offices near the A Avenue
lobby on the first floor of the hospital - best accessed weekdays
between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Forms may also be available from your
physician, attorney and in some legal software packages.
These documents must be witnessed by two adults OR notarized (not
both). Of the two witnesses, one must be unrelated to the person the
documents pertain to. Neither witness can be the durable power of
attorney or the alternate durable power of attorney. Please note, St.
Luke's Spiritual Care does not routinely provide notary service.
Where should copies of my Advance Directive be kept?
Once prepared, it's a good idea to have these documents filed with
your medical records upon admission to the hospital. Also, be sure that
the person(s) you have chosen to act on your behalf if you are unable
to do so have a copy.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Advance Directives are a very important tool for helping ensure your
wishes are known in the event of a medical crisis. However, nothing is
more important than verbally communicating your desires directly to
the people who love you before a crisis arises. When completing your
Advance Directives, talk with your loved ones about your decisions.
If you have questions or concerns, please call the Spiritual Care office at (319) 369-7347.
For more information on Advance Directives, visit the Put it in Writing website.