What is a Living Will and do you need one?

18 June 2021

When it comes to your medical care, all medical professionals need to consider your wishes and get your consent before they begin any treatment; however, there may be a time when you may be unable to make your wishes known, either short term, if you are unconscious or long term if you developed conditions such as dementia that may impair your ability to understand or communicate your wishes.

Therefore, if you wanted to plan ahead, you can create a living will, now known as an advanced decision. This advanced decision lets you, while you still have the capacity, make choices about which medical treatments you would not want to receive in a situation where you couldn’t communicate that yourself.

It can be a good idea to plan ahead, no matter your age, as it ensures that you can make choices about your future well-being and explain those choices to your loved ones and therefore feel confident that your wishes will be followed.

How do you make an Advanced Decision?

To make an advanced decision, you must:

  • Be over 18 years old
  • Have the necessary mental capacity to understand the choices you are making

Whilst an advanced decision does not necessarily have to be in writing, unless you want to refuse life-sustaining treatment (any treatment necessary to keep you alive), we would recommend that a well advised and professionally drafted advance decision provides clarity and certainty for yourself and your loved ones. Copies can then be provided to your GP for addition to your medical file. Whilst not technically required it can be helpful also include your date of birth, your address and a small physical description of yourself.

Things you should make sure of when making an Advanced Decision

You should:

  • Be specific about what treatments you want to refuse as a medical professional need only abide by what is specified during the decision. To do this, it may be a good idea to consult a doctor when making the decision.
  • Ensure that the advanced decision is compliant with the Mental Health Act 2005. A competent solicitor will take you through all aspects of the document to ensure that it complies with current legislation and principles.
  • Inform your GP so the decision can be marked on your medical records. It is also recommended that you inform your family and explain your decisions to those closest to you.
  • Consider a Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’) for Health and Welfare. If you already have this LPA in place, a solicitor will help to ensure that no conflict arises between this document and your Advance Decision. If you do not have a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare in place then you may wish to consult a solicitor to discuss the advantages.

What you can’t do with an Advanced Decision?

There are a few things that you cannot do with an advanced decision:

  • You cannot demand specific treatment;
  • You cannot refuse food or drink my mouth;
  • You cannot refuse to let medical professionals give you primary care, such as keeping you warm or giving you basic pain relief;
  • You cannot request any unlawful treatment, such as euthanasia;
  • You cannot refuse mental health treatment if you have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983.

We have a team of solicitors who specialise in creating these documents and welcome the opportunity to discuss them further. If you would like to discuss making an advanced decision find our nearest office to you by clicking here 

This article was written for Redkite Solicitors by Caitlin Harris & Rachel Broughton. To find out more about Caitlin and Rachel visit their website profiles by clicking on their names here: Caitlin Harris  Rachel Broughton.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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