Creating a Living Will
Creating a living will gives you the opportunity to state if you have any preferences regarding medical treatment, should you become incapable of communicating your wishes in the future. The can help you to retain an element of control.
Creating a living will gives you the opportunity to state if you have any preferences regarding medical treatment, should you become incapable of communicating your wishes in the future. This means that they can help you to retain an element of control.
What is a Living Will?
A living will is also known as an ‘advance decision’ and is a document you would put together for future use if you were unable to communicate or make a medical decision by yourself but would want the final say over the treatment you received.
A living will is legally binding where your healthcare is concerned, as long as it is valid, having been signed and witnessed. A person can withdraw or alter their living will at any time, as long as they have the mental capacity to do so, and alterations or withdrawals do not have to be in writing.
Why Is It Important to Have a Living Will?
It is important for those who have specific wishes they would like to be adhered to in medical situations where they are unable to communicate. The living will only applies to the treatments and situations outlined in the document, stated by the individual who signed it. It doesn’t permit anyone else to make decisions that aren’t clearly written in the living will. In the eventuality of a medical situation that isn’t included in the living will, treatment in the patient’s best interest is decided by the treating doctor.
What to Include in a Living Will
Before deciding what to include in a living will, you might wish to discuss the details with your GP for their professional guidance. They will know your medical history and be able to answer any questions you might have about the effect of any conditions you include in the living will. You don’t need the consent of your GP for your living will to be valid, but you might wish to ask them to sign the document to confirm that you were of sound mind when you signed the document.
Things you might want to include in a living will are as follows:
- The right to refuse antibiotics
- The right to refuse ventilation
- The right to refuse CPR
- The right to refuse palliative care
- Clarity about the circumstances under which you might refuse the above
- Your consent to refuse treatment even if it could lead to your death
You may also wish to discuss these choices with your family and friends so they are prepared for the decisions you are making.
Creating a Living Will
To create a valid living will that outlines a refusal for potentially life-saving treatment, you will need to put it in writing and have the document signed and witnessed, including the statement, ‘even if life is at risk as a result’.
We recommend that after creating a living will that you regularly review it. The reason for this is that if your circumstances were to change after you signed the will, your living will may no longer be deemed valid or applicable.
Once your living will is finalised, valid and applicable, you might wish to distribute copies among your GP, next of kin and those involved in your care. If you have made a health and welfare lasting power of attorney (LPA), it is wise to consult a solicitor to ensure that your LPA and living will don’t conflict with one another. Please see our dedicated post for more information regarding lasting power of attorney.
When creating a living will, you may notice that the list of what to include in a living will focuses only on medical treatment and options for refusal of care. However, if you would like, you can also create a document to express your care preferences, known as an advance statement.
This is not a legally binding document, but it is a great way to communicate your wants and preferences regarding your care. Advance statements typically include things like:
- Where you would like to be cared for – this could be at home, in a hospice or with family.
- Your dietary preferences, including restrictions, likes and dislikes.
- Daily routines – if someone is caring for you, what times do you prefer to get up and go to bed?
- Religious beliefs.
- Entertainment preferences – this includes music, television or books you would like to have access to.
As the advance statement isn’t a legal document, you can record these preferences however you prefer. You can include anything that you feel is important or would help maintain your quality of life, and it can be as detailed as you like. It’s a good idea to give copies of your advance statement to your GP, family members and any carers or medical practitioners involved in your care.
If you would like advice on advance statements, advance decisions and creating a living will, please contact us today. Our team of experienced solicitors is here to help you with creating a living will that is valid and applicable when you need it.
Our wills, probate and trusts team is here to help.
Please call us to find out how we can help. We can talk on the phone or arrange a meeting where we can discuss your options and give you a clear idea of timeframes and costs.
Alternatively, please contact us online and we’ll call you back when it’s convenient for you.