Q&A - If I’m ever in a permanent vegetative state I want to be left to die. How can I make this known?

Q: When the new ruling came in last month about relatives being able to decide whether food and drink should be withdrawn to allow someone in a permanent vegetative state to just die, it got me worried. Would I be brave enough to make such a decision on my parents’ behalf without always wondering whether it was what they would have wanted? Clearly it isn’t something they could put in their Will because their wishes wouldn’t be known until after they’d died. So how could make their wishes clear whilst they are fit and healthy?

A: The simple way to ensure your parents’ wishes would be carried out if they weren’t in a position to tell you is for them to make a Living Will. This is a written statement that details your wishes relating to receiving medical treatment in circumstances when you are unable to communicate those wishes. It can only be put into force if you lose capacity.

Living Wills can be divided into two categories: namely an advance statement and an advance decision. The advance statement provides information on the level of treatment you want should you become terminally ill. This could include where and how you would like to be cared for. Whilst it is not legally binding the NHS directs that anyone in charge of your care must take your wishes into consideration.

An advance decision relating to life sustaining treatment needs very specific legal formalities. If you make a living will you need to be very clear in your statement about the circumstances for your refusal of any treatment so it is vital that you seek the help of a legal professional who has experience in such matters.

(Article August 2018)