A ‘Living Will’ may sound like a contradiction in terms.
After all, a Will is a legal document that is only implemented after your passing to determine how your estate will be shared out.
But a Living Will is a separate document you can now make to ensure that others, including medical professionals, know your wishes about your health and care.
This can then be used if a time comes where you are no longer able to make or communicate your decisions due to an illness or condition.
It can be divided into two categories, Advance Statement or Advance Decision.
Who can make a Living Will?
Anyone over the age 18 who is deemed to have the mental capacity to make decisions over their future care.
Why should I make one?
It could be you have strong views about a particular situation that could arise in the future due to your religion or beliefs – such as having a blood transfusion.
Or maybe you have been diagnosed in the early stages of a disease or disability, which may mean at some stage you may not be able to directly make decisions yourself during your treatment
Should I speak to my doctor?
Yes, they can help you understand the nature of your illness, how it might progress and the consequences of refusing or choosing a particular treatment. It is also something you should discuss with close friends and family so they know your views.
What is an Advance Statement?
It provides details of the level of treatment you want, such as whether you want to be cared for at home or in a hospice, and the sort of care you would like to receive.
An Advance Statement is not legally binding, but it should be respected by healthcare professionals.
What is an Advance Decision?
This is the path you should take if you want to specify you wish to refuse certain types of treatment or care in the future if you are unable to communicate your wishes. This could include the use of CPR, life support or antibiotics.
Should I review my Advance Decisions?
Yes, you should check it continues to reflect your views on a regular basis, while you still have the mental capacity to do so. Bear in mind there could be new or improved treatments available which could also change your decision
Is there anything I can’t do in a Living Will?
You can’t nominate someone else to make decisions on your behalf. That can be done by a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). You also cannot request a specific treatment or refuse basic treatment and food and water.
What if I develop another condition?
A Living Will only applies to the circumstances that are included in the document. If these change, you may want to think about altering your Living Will. Otherwise if will be up to the health professionals treating you to make the decisions about your treatment with regards to the new issues.
Can I change my mind?
You can always cancel a Living Will, as long as you go through the appropriate process.