Like a lot of states, Iowa has a specific "statute of limitations" that anyone looking to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must abide by. This is a law that puts a strict limit on the amount of time you have to go to court and get your case started, by filing the initial complaint against the doctor or care facility you intend to sue.
You can find Iowa's statute of limitations for medical malpractice lawsuits at Iowa Code section 614.1, and it says that this kind of case must be filed within two years of the date "on which the claimant knew, or through the use of reasonable diligence should have known, or received notice in writing of the existence of," the injury or death stemming from the alleged malpractice. In other words, two years from the point when you know, or should reasonably know, that you have a case.
There is a larger catch-all deadline (known as a "statute of repose" in legalese) for medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Iowa, which says that "in no event" shall any such case action be brought more than six years after the date on which the alleged malpractice occurred. So, once six years have passed, your right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit is lost in Iowa, even if you didn't know (and couldn't have known) that you were harmed by malpractice during that time.
The only exception to this larger six-year deadline is for medical malpractice cases where "a foreign object unintentionally left in the body caused the injury or death." In those situations -- where a sponge or surgical instrument is left at the surgery site, for example -- the patient has the typical two-year time period in which to start the case once the medical error is discovered, and there is no over-arching six-year deadline.
If the lawsuit filing deadline has passed and you try to file the case anyway, you can count on the defendant (the doctor or hospital you're suing) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court granting the motion. If that happens, that's the end of your lawsuit. That's why it is crucial to pay attention to and abide by Iowa's medical malpractice statute of limitations as it applies to your case. (Get more details on the Statute of Limitations in Medical Malpractice Cases.)