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A Living Will is a term used for an Advanced Medical Decision. It is a written statement setting out your wishes in relation to medical treatment should you become terminally ill or incapacitated. You have to be over the age of eighteen and have the required mental capacity to do so.
A Living Will is neither a right to life nor a right to die but a right to choose. An advanced direction can only be used to refuse a treatment and not to ask for a specific treatment. It can not be used to ask for a procedure that is unlawful.
It needs to be a clear statement of both the decision and the treatment to be refused, and also needs to set out the circumstances when it applies. The statement should be as detailed as possible. There will also be a statement that this direction is only to be used if the person making it no longer has mental capacity.
Advance directions now have a legal status under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 and Health Care Professionals must follow such an advance direction if it is valid and applicable to the situation. There may be either criminal or civil consequences if a valid Advance Direction is ignored. It is important that your GP or treating Health Practitioner is aware of the existence of your Living Will.
Living Wills are more generally used when there is knowledge of a critical illness. A Living Will can help someone to prepare for the pending treatment of that condition. It is necessary to review your Living Will on a regular basis as treatments are rapidly changing and it is important to ensure your Living Will stays valid.
Where someone is looking generally at preparing for when they are older and considering putting something in place to cover welfare situations that may arise in the future, then it is appropriate to consider making a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney to appoint someone to make health and welfare decisions on your behalf should you lose mental capacity.
Situations that may give rise to a need for a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare include:
For more details, please contact one of our Wills, Probate, Tax and Trusts Solicitors.
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