Living wills

It is a legally binding statement you can make during your lifetime about the medical treatment you may or may not wish to receive

Living wills and advance directives

The technical term for a Living Will is an Advance Decision. The terms of the Advance Decision come into effect during your lifetime in the event that you lose the mental capacity to make your own medical decisions.

An Advance Decision can be in oral form with supporting evidence, but this may result in ambiguity about your wishes. It is advisable to have a written Advance Decision to make your wishes clear. If your Advance Decision includes a refusal of life-sustaining treatment, it must always be in writing, signed and witnessed.

 

For an Advance Decision to be legally binding

For a living will to be legally binding the following conditions must be met:

  • You must have the mental capacity to make your own decisions
  • You must be over the age of 18
  • You must clearly specify the treatment(s) you would wish to refuse and the circumstances when this treatment should be refused

An Advance Decision can only take effect once you have lost capacity, and only if it complies with all the above. If the Advance Decision is not compliant, it could be disregarded by the treating clinicians.

An Advance Decision can be withdrawn or altered by you at any point before you lose capacity. If you decide to put a new one in place, it too must comply with the above.

An Advance Decision cannot be used for any of the following:

  • To ask for anything that is illegal for example, euthanasia
  • To demand care that your doctor considers inappropriate for your circumstances
  • To refuse the offer of food and drink by mouth
  • To refuse palliative and basic nursing care such as providing pain relief and bathing

Health and welfare LPA

You can also create a health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA) where you can appoint a relative or friend to make decisions on your behalf relating to your health and welfare, if in the future you become mentally incapacitated. You can give your Attorney the ability to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment on your behalf.

If there is any conflict between a Lasting Power of Attorney and an Advance Decision, the most recent document will be the one which takes precedence.

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