Living Will

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What does an Advance Decision or Living Will mean?

A Living Will also known as an Advanced Decision is made in a legally binding document that allows you to refuse any future medical treatment that you do not want to give consent to. A Living Will/Advanced Decision can only be created whilst you have mental capacity for it to be valid.

The reason for making a Living Will is that if in the future you were to lose mental capacity for example due to illness or accident then the medical professional will make decisions about your treatment and care. The Doctor in charge of your treatment/care will have the final say about commencing or continuing with specific treatments unless there is a Living Will or a Health Power of Attorney. This will allow your family and friends and health professionals to know your wishes if you do not have the ability to communicate them yourself.

The treatment you are refusing will need to be specified. If you want to refuse treatment in some situations and not others then you will need to be clear about the exact circumstances in which you want to refuse treatment. The sort of reasons some people make a living will are because they:

  • Do not want their life artificially prolonged by receiving life-sustaining treatment such as ventilation, CPR or antibiotics.
  • want to have a say in their future health choices
  • would like to make it less stressful for their family
  • are living with a long-term illness
  • want to be prepared as they get older
  • have been recently diagnosed with a serious illness or change in prognosis
  • do not want the treatment to conflict with their religious views

A Living Will needs to be in writing, signed and witnessed for it to be valid.

Living Will/Advanced Decision or Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)?

The difference between the two is that the Attorney will make the decision about the treatment which may not be what you would have wanted or conflict with your personal views. With an Advance Decision, you make the decision in advance but this is done when you do not have the benefit of all available information at the time of the event.