Q: Watching people on TV who caught COVID-19, lying helplessly in hospital beds and in some cases destined to die, has made me consider whether in dire circumstances I would want to be kept alive. I am 93 and would not want to carry on if my quality of life was taken away. Can I register my wishes now in respect of how I would want to be treated in case I am unable to voice my wishes when the time comes?
A: You certainly have the right to refuse medical treatment, but if you do not want to receive a specific treatment, you must set out your instructions in writing. You can do this in an ‘Advance Decision’, sometimes called a Living Will.
The Advance Decision should set out exactly what treatments you do not wish to have and the circumstances under which that would be applicable. If you state that you do not want treatment amounting to life-sustaining treatment and as a result of that decision you will die, you must explain clearly that you understand that to be the case. An Advance Decision cannot be used to ask for your life to be ended.
An Advance Decision can be made by someone over 18 years of age who has mental capacity. To be legally binding, it must be signed and witnessed. You should make it clear that you have not been pressured into preparing the Advance Directive by a third party and you must not have been seen to do or say anything contradictory to what it expresses since it was made.
An Advanced Decision should not be confused with an Advance Statement. An Advance Statement can include other information relevant to your health and care, such as how you wish to be cared for on a daily basis in the future but be aware that it is not legally binding. Your solicitor can advise on your best options.
Article March 2021
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