ADVANCE DECISIONS (also known as 'LIVING WILLS')

You may have heard this referred to as a ‘Living Will’. The term ‘Living Will’ does not have a legal meaning, but can be used to refer to either an ‘Advance Decision’ or an ‘Advance Statement’. An ‘Advance Decision’ is the formal name for a Living Will. It allows you to indicate that you wish to refuse certain types of medical treatment, should you be unable to make or communicate a decision about your treatment in the future.

When you are ill you can usually discuss treatment options with your doctor and then jointly reach a decision about your future care.

However, you may be admitted to hospital when unconscious or unable, on a temporary or permanent basis, to make your own decisions about your treatment or communicate your wishes. This may happen, for example, if you have a car accident, a stroke or develop dementia. To use the legal term – you would ‘lack mental capacity’ to make an informed decision and/or communicate your wishes. In such situations, doctors have a legal and ethical obligation to act in your best interest. One exception to this is if you have made an Advance Decision refusing certain types of medical treatment in certain situations. Medical professionals providing your care are bound (if the Advance Decision is valid) to follow it – whether or not they think it is in your best interests.

An adult with mental capacity can refuse treatment for any reason, even if this might lead to their death. However, no one is able to insist that a particular medical treatment is given, if it conflicts with what the medical professionals providing the treatment conclude is in the patient’s best interests. This is why an Advance Decision can only be a refusal of treatment.

The term ‘Living Will’ can also be used to refer to an Advance Statement. While Advance Decisions let you refuse certain types of treatment, Advance Statements cover any other decisions about how you would like to be treated. For example, you could specify your food preferences, religious or other beliefs. An Advance Statement is a general statement of your wishes and views. Only an Advance Decision is legally binding, but an Advance Statement should be taken into account when deciding what is best for you.

If you want to make an Advance Decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment, it must meet certain requirements. We are able to prepare an Advance Decision for you to ensure that it meets these requirements.

If you made an Advance Decision refusing life-sustaining treatment before 1 October 2007, you should review it to make sure it meets the requirements.

Professionals providing your medical treatment are protected from liability for not providing treatment if they reasonably believe there is a valid and applicable Advance Decision. They can provide treatment if they are in doubt over the existence, validity or applicability of an Advance Decision, and they are again protected from liability.

If you decide to write an Advance Decision it is important to discuss this matter with your GP so that your intentions are clearly recorded in your medical records. It is our standard practice to write to your GP notifying them that you have signed an Advance Decision and we provide your GP with a copy. This is all included in the fixed cost.

Advance Decisions are often created in conjunction with a Lasting Power of Attorney. A Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to give people you trust the legal authority to deal with and manage your financial affairs on your behalf. Click Here to find out more about Lasting Powers of Attorney.

We offer a professional Advance Decision writing service, offering you the peace of mind that your wishes are legally expressed should you become incapable to make the decision at some point in the future.

If you require more assistance on Advance Decisions then please contact us

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