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  • Living Wills

    What is a Living Will?

    It is a document containing your views on how you would like to be treated if you are unable to make such decisions yourself, for example if you have a stroke or accident or have dementia. If you ‘lack mental capacity’ to make such decisions, doctors have a legal and ethical obligation to act in your best interests when providing care and treatment.There are two different types, known as ‘advance decisions’ and ‘advance statements’. An advance decision is used to refuse treatment whereas an advance statement relates to how you would like to be treated and cared for.Only advance decisions are legally binding. However, your wishes contained in an advance statement should be taken into account by doctors when deciding what is in your best interests.

    Advance Decisions

    Any adult with mental capacity can refuse treatment even if by doing so it might lead to death. However, if you do not have the mental capacity to make such a decision, doctors make the decision for you unless you have made an advance decision.An advance decision can be given verbally, for example during a conversation between a patient and doctor while the patient still has mental capacity. However, it is advisable to have such instructions in writing.It is advisable for your advance decision to contain the following information:

     You must then sign and date the document before a witness, who must also sign the document. It is also advisable to send a copy of the signed advance decision to your GP.If you wish to make an advance decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment, it must be in writing.

    Advance Statements

    This is a general, but not legally binding, statement of your wishes and views on what care and treatment you should receive if you are unable to make these decisions yourself.It cannot contain your wish to refuse medical treatment. For this you must use an advance decision. However, you can include non-medical matters, such as food preferences, whether you prefer a bath or shower and your daily routine.

    Lasting Power of Attorney

    You can stipulate your wishes in a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare by including an advance statement or state that your chosen Attorneys make such decisions for you. You can also specify whether your Attorneys have the power to make decisions about life-sustaining treatment.

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