Expert legal advice for advance decisions

A Living Will (also known as an advance decision or advance directive) is a statement of how you would like to be treated if you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself (loss of mental capacity) or if you are unable to communicate your decisions.

An advance decision typically refers to your wishes in respect of medical treatment and can set out what types of treatments you wish to refuse, even if this might lead to end of life.

Legally binding Living Wills

If you wish to refuse life-sustaining treatments then you will need to create your Living Will in writing and it must be dated, signed and witnessed. You will need to include a specific statement relating to your understanding that your life might be at risk.

It is important to give a copy of your Living Will to your loved ones and anyone who is involved in your care. It is also useful to provide your GP and medical team with a copy so it can be included in your medical notes.

Living Wills and Lasting Power of Attorney

If you have made a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare there can be a complex legal interaction between the two documents and, to ensure your wishes are upheld, you should seek legal advice to clarify your particular position. Your solicitor will be able to check whether you need to update the documents and will ensure everything has been drafted, signed and witnessed correctly.

If you have appointed an attorney for health and welfare and you wish to also make a Living Will, you should tell them about the document and provide them with a copy.

Important factors to consider for Living Wills

If you are making an advance decision about refusing treatment in certain situations, there are a number of important issues that you will need to think about carefully. It might be beneficial to discuss your choices with friends and family, and your healthcare team – your doctors will be able to explain the ramifications of refusing treatment in relation to your own medical needs.

To refuse treatment your Living Will (advance decision) must:

  • state clearly the specific situations that will lead to a refusal of particular treatments
  • specify the particular treatments you do not wish to receive
  • state that you understand refusal of treatment could lead to your death

It’s important to note that a Living Will cannot be used to request specific treatments and cannot be used to ask for any treatment that will end your life.

The difference between an advance decision and an advance statement

Unlike an advance decision (Living Will) an advance statement explains your wishes in relation to likes and dislikes and what you would like to happen in order for you to be comfortable. If you create an advance statement, which doesn’t have to be written down, you should share it with your friends, family and carers.

Your advance statement could include information on where you would like to live, who you wish to be consulted about your care, your dietary requirements and preferences and your religious beliefs.

Unlike a Living Will, an advance statement is not legally binding. To give someone you trust the legal power to make these sorts of decisions on your behalf you should consider setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. We can assist you with that.

Wellers for Living Wills

Setting up a Living Will (or a Lasting Power of Attorney) is one of those tasks that many of us put off and put off until suddenly, it’s too late.

The only way to ensure that you receive the treatment and care you would wish for yourself if you become unable to make decisions is to set up a Living Will or an LPA.

This can be a complex task to get right. By seeking the advice of a qualified solicitor, you can put yourself, and your family, in the best position if you suffer ill health, such as dementia, or an accident that causes loss of capacity in the future.

Contact Wellers today. For further information or to make an appointment with a member of our legal team, please email or telephone 020 8464 4242