What is an Advanced Directive?
An Advanced Directive, also known as an Advanced Decision, (previously a Living Will) is a document that records your instructions regarding your healthcare in the event that you lose capacity or are unable to communicate your wishes. It is particularly important for putting forward your wishes about end of life care.
When Can it be Used?
You can use an Advanced Directive to specifically refuse CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), the use of a ventilator - should you become unable to breathe for yourself, artificial nutrition or hydration, or the administration of antibiotics for life threatening infections.
You cannot use it to ask someone to end your life (euthanasia), refuse basic care, or to demand certain treatments.
The Relationship between Advanced Directives and Lasting Powers of Attorney
Whilst an Advanced Directive is a useful document for recording your healthcare wishes, if you wish to nominate someone to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you lose capacity or are unable to communicate your wishes, you would need to take out a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. This nominated person is known as an Attorney and they would have the authority to step into your shoes as though they were you, and make health and welfare related decisions on your behalf. They are therefore given a wider reign and are not limited to putting forward the wishes contained in your Advanced Directive. In fact, if you have a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, you do not necessarily need to have an Advanced Directive, although the two documents can work in harmony with one another. It may be particularly important to have an Advanced Directive if you are appointing a professional Attorney, such as a Solicitor, as they are unlikely to know your personal wishes and will benefit from having these recorded in writing.
What is Involved in Making an Advanced Directive?
Before you make an Advanced Directive, it is advisable to talk to your GP, who can fully explain any treatments and the implications of these with you.
Once you have decided on your wishes we would suggest booking an appointment with one of the lawyers in our Wills, Trusts & Probate team to go through these. Our lawyers will ensure that the document is drawn up in accordance with your wishes and the content is legally binding.
Following this you may wish to lodge a copy of the Advanced Directive with your GP, and anyone else who is involved in your care. You may also wish to give copies to those who are closest to you so that they are aware of your wishes.
What About Living Wills?
If you made a Living Will prior to the enactment of the Mental Capacity Act, which came into force in October 2007, you may find it does not meet the new requirements of an Advanced Directive and therefore may not be legally binding. On this basis, we advise that you come and see us to prepare a replacement Advanced Directive.
Can I Cancel my Advanced Directive?
An Advanced Directive can be withdrawn at any time, provided you have the required mental capacity to do so. In doing so, please ensure that you destroy any copies, including those lodged with your GP and health care professionals.
Fosters have a dedicated team of qualified and experienced lawyers to advise you fully on lasting powers of attorney. For more information, please call our Wills, Trust and Probate department on 01603 620508, or email us.