What is an Advance Directive or Living Will?

What is an Advance Directive or Living Will?

Ensure your medical preferences are legally enforceable by drafting an Advance Directive/Living Will. Verbal communication may not suffice in conveying your wishes to hospital staff, potentially leaving medical decisions to professionals. Ensure your friends and relatives are aware of your Directives to avoid any uncertainty regarding your medical treatment. profession. Your friends and relatives may not be fully aware of your wishes.



Planning for Incapacity: Power of Attorney
What is an Advance Decision or Living Will?
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Understanding Living Wills

When individuals face serious health issues, they often engage in discussions with their doctors to explore treatment options and make informed decisions about their future care. However, there are scenarios where individuals may become incapacitated due to unforeseen circumstances such as accidents, strokes, or dementia, rendering them unable to communicate their wishes or make decisions about their treatment. In such instances, medical professionals are legally obligated to act in the individual’s best interests, unless an Advance Decision, also known as a Living Will, is in place.

An Advance Decision is a legally binding document wherein an individual can refuse specific medical treatments under certain circumstances, even if such refusal may result in their death. This directive must be made by an adult with mental capacity, who can understand, weigh up, and communicate their decision effectively. Advance Decisions can provide peace of mind by ensuring that one’s wishes are respected even when they are unable to participate in decision-making.

It’s important to note that Advance Decisions made before October 1st, 2007, are still valid if they meet the requirements outlined in the Mental Capacity Act 2005. These decisions must be reviewed periodically to ensure their compliance with the law and to reflect any changes in personal circumstances or medical advancements.

What an Advance Decision Covers

An Advance Decision can only refuse specific medical treatments and must clearly outline the circumstances under which the refusal applies. It cannot be used to demand illegal actions such as euthanasia, refuse essential nursing care, or deny comfort measures like pain relief. Additionally, an Advance Decision cannot refuse food and drink by mouth or care aimed at maintaining comfort.

Considerations When Making an Advance Decision

When contemplating an Advance Decision, individuals may wish to consult medical professionals, family members, and friends to ensure their decision is well-informed and understood. Consulting with a doctor, especially if one has a terminal illness, can help clarify the implications of treatment decisions in the context of the individual’s health condition. Furthermore, discussing one’s intentions with loved ones can provide additional support and clarity regarding the decision-making process.

Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) and Advance Decisions

Alternatively, individuals can establish a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to designate someone to make decisions about their treatment if they become incapable of doing so themselves. Within the personal welfare LPA document, individuals can specify whether their attorney(s) have the authority to make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment. However, it’s essential to note that creating an LPA after making an Advance Decision can invalidate the Advance Decision, as the LPA takes precedence. Conversely, an Advance Decision made after creating an LPA supersedes the LPA’s authority in matters related to treatment refusal.

Reviewing and Cancelling an Advance Decision

Regularly reviewing an Advance Decision is vital to ensure its continued relevance and alignment with one’s preferences and circumstances. Any changes in medical treatments or personal circumstances should prompt a reassessment of the Advance Decision’s validity. Additionally, individuals can cancel an Advance Decision at any time while they still have the capacity to do so. This cancellation can be verbal or in writing, with the latter being advisable to ensure clarity and inform relevant parties of the decision’s revocation.

Bottom Line

Appointing an Executor and drafting an Advance Decision are crucial steps in ensuring one’s wishes are respected in times of incapacity. By understanding the legal implications and consulting with relevant parties, individuals can make informed decisions that align with their values and preferences. Regular review and communication regarding these decisions can help maintain their relevance and effectiveness over time, providing peace of mind and clarity during challenging circumstances.


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