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Advance Directives

05 August 2016

also known as Living Wills

Advance Directives

Advance Directives are commonly used to allow an individual to refuse treatments, including those which are life sustaining, and operations. Life sustaining treatment may be refused provided you have the following

  • At least one of the conditions set out in The Schedule (see below)
  • A minimum of two independent doctors who mutually agree that you are unlikely to recover
  • Your Living Will specifies refusal of treatments that could potentially be life sustaining (such as ventilation and resuscitation)

If each of these prerequisite are fulfilled, then medical professionals can follow your wishes.
For example, if you had no brain activity and your Living Will stated that you refused to be kept on ventilation, then medical professionals would have a duty to follow your wishes and end any life supporting treatment. The Schedule includes the following medical issues:

  • Advanced disseminated malignant disease (e.g. widespread cancer)
  • Advanced immune deficiency (e.g. AIDS)
  • Advanced degenerative disease of the nervous system (e.g. motor neurone disease)
  • Severe and lasting brain damage due to injury, stroke, disease or other causes
  • Senile or pre-senile dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s)
  • Any other condition of comparable magnitude

It is important to ensure that, when making an Advance Directive/Living Will, your doctor is made aware of this and a copy should be saved to your medical file in case of medical emergencies when urgent treatment may be required. The document must be valid and apply to the situation you may be in and comply with the Mental Capacity Act 2005, i.e. have mental capacity at the time of making the Living Wills. Medical professionals are bound to adhere to your wishes set out in your Living Will wherever possible, however they are also bound by professional liability.  

Advance Directives may be used to appoint healthcare proxies. This appointment would allow your healthcare proxy to communicate your beliefs, views and wishes when you are unable to do so. You can also use your Advance Directive to bring to attention any religious or cultural practices your medical professionals need to be aware of. This document cannot be used to refuse basic care such as hygiene and pain relief; you cannot request euthanasia or unreasonable treatment.

It is important that health care professionals are still able to go against your wishes in the event that they believe you would still be able to sustain a good quality of life. For example, if you were involved in a road traffic accident and you needed to be resuscitated, but you have an Advance Directive in place which instructed that you did not want to be resuscitated, in this situation if the medical professionals attending to you believed that your injuries would be recoverable and you would still have a good quality of life, then such medical professionals would be able to still provide treatment despite terms outlined in your Living Will.

If you do not complete an Advance Directive then medical professionals would consult your family and they would be responsible for making any necessary decisions such as turning off life support. Drafting a professional Living Will/Advance Directive means that your family would not have to be burdened with this responsibility as your wishes for such a situation would be in place.

For more information on how Redstone Wills can help you put together a professional Living Wills, get in touch with a member of our legal team on 0808 281 1545 or visit here.

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