What is a Living Will and how does it work?
A Living Will, or Advance Directive as it’s known in law, is a statement which expresses a person’s preferences about medical treatment in the event of becoming incapable of making or communicating a treatment decision.
It can take the form of:
– An instruction directive giving information about the kind of treatment an individual wants (a request directive), or does not want (a refusal directive)
– A proxy directive in which the maker appoints someone else to make and communicate treatment decisions on his or her behalf.
– A combined instruction and proxy directive
In England and Wales, recent Court decisions on medical treatment and end of life issues have held that a refusal directive (a directive to refuse treatment) will be valid and enforceable at common law provided that:
– It is clearly established.
– It is applicable to the circumstances.
– The maker was competent when it was made.
– The maker was not unduly influenced by anyone else.
– The maker contemplated the situation that eventually arose.
– The maker was aware of the consequences of refusing treatment.
– It does not request any unlawful intervention or omission.
– It does not request treatment the medical team considers to be clinically inappropriate.
There are many circumstances in which a Living Will can be used. Very careful thought needs to be given by the maker before they ask for a Living Will to be made.
They may wish to consider some of the following:
– Whether to have their life prolonged by drugs or artificial means when there is little or no hope of recovery.
– Whether to refuse certain types of treatment.
– Whether to be kept alive long enough to enable an organ donation to take place.
– Whether to receive maximum treatment.
– Treatment preferences; i.e. to be resuscitated or to have surgery, or to be put on a breathing machine.
– Which people doctors should consult before a treatment decision is made.
A copy of your Living Will is lodged with your doctor or hospital and attached to your medical records. This makes sure that your treatment wishes would be honoured if the situation arose in which you were unable to take control yourself.
How can we help?
We offer a sensitive and confidential service for drafting a Living Will.
We will make sure the document fits your requirements and beliefs and we store it if necessary – free of charge. We’ll arrange correspondence with your doctor and ensure a copy of the document is lodged with your doctor or hospital medical team.
We also offer a laminated carrying card displaying a ‘medical alert’ symbol. It is recognised by the medical profession and indicates to them that you have a Living Will in place.