Living Wills or advance directives
A statement detailing what medical treatment you would not wish to receive should you lose mental capacity or the ability to communicate in the future.
What is a Living Will?
It is a statement detailing what medical treatment you would not wish to receive should you lose
mental capacity or the ability to communicate in the future. It is legally binding in both England
The term “Living Will” can be misleading; it is not a Will and does not deal with a person’s estate.
Who can make a Living Will?
Anyone who is aged 18 years or over and has the mental capacity to do so.
Should it be in writing?
Yes if you are refusing life-saving treatment for the Living Will to be legally binding it must be in
writing, signed and witnessed. Irrespective of whether you are refusing such treatment, we would
always recommend that your Living Will complies with these requirements to avoid possible
problems in the future.
What are the advantages of having a Living Will?
It enables you to keep control in the future when you are unable to speak for yourself. You can
specify the medical treatment and procedures that you do not wish to receive, for example, blood
transfusions, resuscitation and the use of life- saving treatments, whether existing or yet to be
Are there any limitations?
- You cannot refuse basic care or nursing needs.
- You cannot ask for specific medical treatment.
- You cannot choose someone to make decisions for you.
- You cannot refuse treatment for a mental health condition.
Points to consider?
A Living Will can be revoked at any time or updated. You need to ensure that your medical team
are aware that you have a Living Will in place. A copy should be given to your doctors and other
relevant caregivers and family members. If travelling, take a copy with you.
The Living Will needs to be carefully considered and drawn up to ensure that your wishes are
covered in light of future medical advances and to avoid any ambiguity.
Are there any alternatives?
If you wish to appoint one or more individuals to make decisions for you should you lose mental
capacity in the future, a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney would be appropriate.
You can give your attorneys the ability to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment. This
offers a greater deal of flexibility in an ever-changing world.
Call our Private Client enquiry line on +44 (0)203 691 2080 and we will put you in touch with a lawyer who can help.
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