Liv­ing wills

Cheshire Life - - Legal Matters -

The COVID-19 pan­demic has forced peo­ple to take ac­tion to en­sure their le­gal mat­ters are in or­der, in­clud­ing

mak­ing wills and ad­vance de­ci­sions

What is an ad­vance de­ci­sion? A liv­ing will, or an ad­vance de­ci­sion, is a le­gal doc­u­ment set­ting out your in­struc­tions for the re­fusal of med­i­cal treat­ment. Un­der the cur­rent law of Eng­land and Wales, it is not pos­si­ble to de­mand a cer­tain treat­ment

(this re­lies on the pro­fes­sional judge­ment of the treat­ing clin­i­cian), but you can refuse treat­ment if you are well enough to do so.

There might be un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances, when an ac­ci­dent or an ill­ness leaves you un­able to refuse life-sus­tain­ing treat­ment. If you did not make an ad­vance de­ci­sion or a health and wel­fare last­ing power of at­tor­ney (LPA), the clin­i­cal team must use their own judge­ment on whether or not to pro­ceed with a cer­tain treat­ment, and the preser­va­tion of life at all costs is of­ten the driv­ing force.

If your fam­ily dis­agrees with the clin­i­cal team, they can ap­ply to the Court of Pro­tec­tion. How­ever, this can be a stressful, slow and ex­pen­sive process and the de­ci­sion could ar­rive too late.

What pow­ers do the next of kin have?

Many peo­ple are un­aware that a fam­ily has no de­ci­sion-mak­ing power in the clin­i­cal process at all, un­less the pa­tient has ap­pointed them as health and wel­fare at­tor­neys. A well-drafted ad­vance de­ci­sion can set out pre­cisely how you might want to refuse life-sus­tain­ing treat­ment. For ex­am­ple, you could spec­ify that at least two doc­tors must agree that there is no prospect of re­cov­ery to a cer­tain level, such as com­mu­ni­ca­tion or mo­bil­ity.

A valid and ap­pli­ca­ble ad­vance de­ci­sion is legally en­force­able, and doc­tors will not be able to ad­min­is­ter life-sus­tain­ing treat­ment un­der the cir­cum­stances you have spec­i­fied.

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