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Living Wills - advance directives for medical treatments


Lawson-West Solicitors - Expert Author

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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 beliefs;

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.

About the Author

Lawson-West specialise in commercial, business and employment law. Our team of dedicated commercial solicitors can help with buying or selling a business, business law and disputes, landlord and tenant issues and commercial property. Our expert employment team can offer practical advice and guidance on all aspects of employment law including redundancy, compromise agreements and dismissal procedures. Visit for more information.

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-12-11 15:52:01 in Legal Articles

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