Making an Advanced Decision or Living Will

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What does an Advance Decision or Living Will mean?

Advance Decisions, commonly known as ‘Living Wills’ are legally binding decisions refusing the commencing or continuing of specific medical treatments.

An Advance Decision will be made whilst you have capacity and can only be used if you lose capacity to refuse the treatments specified.

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Rachel Kyle

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How do I make an Advance Decision?

An Advance Decision must be in writing in order to be legally binding. We recommend that you give copies to your family, friends, and medical professionals.

The Advance Decision must; Explicitly state the proposed treatment, Identify the circumstances under which you would not want to receive the treatment, Be in writing and signed by the decision-maker in the presence of a witness who must also sign and include a statement confirming that the decision is to apply even if the decision-maker’s life is at risk (only if the treatment is life-sustaining)

It can be difficult to think about drafting Advance Decisions covering all treatments especially with rapidly evolving medical technology. Our solicitors here at Goughs can advise you and help you prepare Advance Decisions taking into account all possibilities whilst ensuring they satisfy all the requirements.

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Popular questions about Living Wills

When you have capacity, you can decide to refuse all or some medical treatments. At such time as you lose the requisite capacity to make the decision, if you have not made an Advance Decision (or Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney), then healthcare professionals will act on what they consider to be in your best interest, regardless of whether or not you would have wanted the treatment.

To read our factsheet on making an Advanced Decision or a Living Will, please click here.

You cannot use Advance Decisions to:- 

  • Require a healthcare professional to provide a particular medical treatment;
  • Request of authorise illegal acts such as asking for your life to be ended; or 
  • Refuse essential care (for example keeping you warm, sheltered and clean)

However you can direct the professionals by including a non-legally binding request for a particular treatment which they may consider when deciding what treatment is in your best interests.

Under a LPA, the Attorney makes a decision in what they consider to be your best interests even if they contradict your personal, moral or religious views.

With an Advance Decision, you make the decision in advance but possibly without the benefit of all available information.

Yes, but you need to ensure that there is no conflict between the two. If there is, then the most recent document will take precedence.

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