How has COVID affected my estate planning?

If you have an advanced directive, such as a Do Not Resuscitate [DNR], living will, or a medical durable power of attorney that was written before the academic—contact the Law Group of Iowa immediately! All legal documents written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the novel Coronavirus, likely do not comply with our current reality. Why is that?

Before the pandemic, most advanced directives and similar medical documents in Iowa contain language that explicitly forbids the use of ventilators. That may seem strange, but it is in line with most forms of advanced directives, living wills, and power of attorney forms? Typically, an advanced directive is a document that puts a ceiling on the type of medical interventions you want to receive in case of your incapacity. Incapacity is the ability to meaningfully communicate with your care providers according to strict interpretations of Iowa law. For example, if you are in a motor vehicle accident and are unresponsive to emergency medical personnel, but still alive, that would be considered incapacity. Why? Because there is no way for you to meaningfully communicate with the EMTs or doctors.

Why do people get advanced directives? People have many different reasons they may want to put limits on what their doctor can do to them. For example, a doctor is trained and obliged to resuscitate you if you lose the function of a major organ, such as your heart. Resuscitation or restarting the heart and lung functions may require CPR or even more invasive treatment, such as open the chest and massaging the heart. In some cases, doctors will even purposefully sever the spinal cord below the neck in order to prevent an incapacitated person from accidentally pulling out their own intubation kit.

These are serious interventions, and in the case of the second example, would mean a lifetime as a quadriplegic. It’s for these and many other reasons that people desire some control over the events nearing the end of their lives.

What’s the differences between an advanced directive, living will, and durable medical power of attorney?

Most advanced directives prevent the use of air ventilators, forced air, or other assistive breathing devices—including oxygen. But, the COVID-19 and novel coronavirus pandemic affects people’s ability to breath. This has made the use of ventilators and assistive breathing devices part of regular treatment for COVID.

Advanced directives that prevent the use of ventilators are STILL effective advanced directives even though the pandemic has occurred. Doctors MUST follow your advanced directives—including old ones that have not yet been updated for the pandemic.

Therefore, contact the Law Group of Iowa and we will review all of your existing documents, recommend changes, and provide effective delivery and storage methods for your emergency medical documentation.