Planning ahead to stay in control of your medical decisions

26 April, 2018

Do you feel strongly about maintaining control over your medical treatment if you later lose the ability to make or communicate decisions for yourself? If so, an advance decision could give you peace of mind.

An advance decision, often referred to as a ‘living will’, is a legal document recording your instructions about specific medical treatments that you wish to refuse in the future. To make an advance decision you must be over the age of 18 and have mental capacity.

Any treatments you wish to refuse must be clearly set out in the advance decision alongside details of the specific circumstances in which you would refuse these treatments. A properly drafted and signed advance decision will be legally binding and will take priority over decisions made, even in your ‘best interest’, by others on your behalf.

An advance decision is particularly useful as a companion to a Health and Care Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’). The LPA allows you to select people you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you are ever unable to do so yourself.  These people are known as your attorneys.  When making a Health and Care LPA you can give your attorneys the right to refuse or consent to life sustaining treatment on your behalf.  A valid and legally binding advance decision allows you to retain some control over that process, as your attorneys, the court and medical practitioners must follow it, even if they disagree with your decision.  Beware! An advance decision created before a Health and Care LPA is signed and registered can be overridden by your attorneys if you have given them authority to consent to or refuse life sustaining treatment on your behalf.  The order in which you make these documents is vital to ensure your wishes are carried out.

Advance decisions can be a useful tool in planning for your future, whether you are suffering from a specific condition or simply want to plan ahead. By making an advance decision, you can ensure that your wishes are observed and, perhaps more importantly, help your loved ones by taking those difficult decisions out of their hands.

To find out more about advance decisions or Health and Care LPAs please contact Hannah Baker at hannah.baker@crippspg.co.uk or on 01892 506 057.