What is a Living Will?

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Living Wills and or as known in England and Wales “Advance decision” is the formal name for a living will.

It allows you to indicate that you wish to refuse certain types of medical treatment, should you be unable to make or communicate a decision about your treatment in the future.

When you’re ill, you can usually discuss treatment options with your doctor and then jointly reach a decision about your future care. However, you may be admitted to hospital when unconscious or unable to make your own decisions about your treatment or communicate your wishes.

For example, this may happen if you have a car accident or a stroke or develop dementia. To use the legal term, you would ‘lack capacity’ to make or communicate your decision. In these situations, doctors must act in your best interests. The exception is if you have made an advance decision.

An advance decision lets you indicate that you want to refuse certain types of medical treatment in certain situations.

It must be respected by medical professionals providing your care, whether or not they think it’s in your best interests.

Why make an advance decision?
If you have strong feelings about particular types of treatment, you may wish to make an advance decision. You may want to refuse a blood transfusion, or an amputation. More commonly, if you have been told you have a terminal illness or dementia, you may wish to indicate which types of treatment you would not wish to receive in the future. An advance decision can give you peace of mind knowing your wishes won’t be ignored.