What is a Living Will?
Living Wills, correctly known as Advance Decisions, came into law under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
The Advance Decision sets out your preferences about specific types of medical treatment.
In the event that you do not have mental capacity or are unable to communicate when such treatment is being considered, medics are legally bound to follow the instructions found in your Advance Decision.
Why might I need an Advance Decision?
It records whether you would object to, or accept, life-saving or prolonging treatment in particular circumstances. Your medical team is obliged to heed your Advance Decision.
Although it sounds gloomy to plan for the worst, that’s pretty much what an Advance Decision lets you do. It effectively gives you a say in the situation despite your incapacity at the time.
How do I make an Advance Decision?
We will talk you through the particular scenarios which an Advance Decision covers, and help you articulate your views on what your treatment should be. We recommend that you discuss the scenarios and your instructions with your GP or other treating doctor before finalising your Advance Decision.
When the Advance Decision is written, it must be signed in the presence of a witness. The witness must then also sign in your presence.
Can I include my wishes for general care in case I lose capacity?
No. But you can make an Advance Statement for this purpose.
The Advance Statement is not legally binding, but can include general guidance about how you would like to be cared for should you lose capacity. It often covers personal preferences, such as what type of music you enjoy, what your intimate care regime is, your hobbies and interests – information which will give those looking after you insight into your likes and dislikes.
What else should I consider when making my Advance Decision?
1. You should review it every couple of years, and sign and date it to indicate you have done so. If your medical team are aware that there have been advances in treatments or techniques since you signed your Advance Decision which, had you known about them, might have caused you to change your mind about your Advance Decision, they can apply to the Court to have it set aside. Regular reviews show that you have reconsidered your decision in light of any such advances.
2. You should ensure people know about it! Tell your next of kin, or a trusted friend who is likely to be contacted in an emergency or involved in your care. Give a copy to your GP and have it added to your health records. If you amend your Advance Decision, be sure to have the old ones destroyed and replaced.
3. If you have a Health & Welfare LPA, or are considering one, talk to us about the implications of having both in place. The most recent document will outrank the older one in terms of binding your treating doctors, so it is important that they interact together without contradicting one another. We can advise you in this regard, and complete the relevant paperwork for you to ensure your wishes will be carried out.