Living Wills - advance directives for medical treatments
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Issued 3rd December 2009
A Living Will is an advance statement regarding medical treatment and can be
used to outline medical treatments you wish or do not wish to have and appoint
someone else to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf if you are too
ill to make decisions for yourself. Not all aspects of a Living Will are legally
enforceable, but they do provide guidance for people giving you medical care and
are helpful to family members who may have to make decisions for you.
Anyone who is aged over 18 and has mental capacity can make a Living Will.
However, you cannot refuse basic care, including warmth, cleanliness, shelter,
pain relief and provision of food and water by mouth.
There are three elements to a Living Will although a will does not have to
include all three :-
1. Request Directive – requesting particular treatments, although
doctors cannot be forced to give specific treatments and this aspect of a Living
Will would be taken as guidance because it is not currently legally enforceable;
2. Refusal Directive – refusing certain treatment, particularly if you
do not wish to be kept alive beyond a certain point especially where there may
not be any prospect of recovery or if certain treatments conflict with religious
3. Proxy Directive – appointing someone to make treatment decisions on
your behalf if you are too ill to make those decisions for yourself. This is not
legally enforceable as it is doctors who will ultimately make decisions about
your treatment. But it can provide guidance as to who would be best to consult,
particularly if you are cohabiting because your partner may not be recognised as
your next of kin so doctors may not fully consult them.
Creating a Living Will provides reassurance if you are worried about being
kept alive by medical technology beyond a stage that you would choose or if you
wish to be kept alive for long as possible. Living Wills can also help family
members who may have to make decisions on your behalf if you become too ill to
make those decisions.
A Living Will can be changed and updated at any time. The British Medical
Association recommend reviewing Living Wills every five years to check they
still reflect your wishes.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-12-11 15:52:01 in Legal Articles