What is a Living Will?
Living Will is a term that is used to describe documents that give medical staff information about a patients treatment preferences at the end of their life. In truth the documents could be a Living Will, and Advance Decision or Directive or a DNR (do not resuscitate) document. They all achieve similar ends but are subtly different.
In England and Wales, people may make an advance directive (decision) under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. This is only for an advance refusal of treatment for when the person lacks mental capacity; to be legally binding, the advance decision must be specific about the treatment that is being refused and the circumstances in which the refusal will apply. To be valid, the person must have been competent and understood the decision when they signed the directive. Where the patient’s advance decision relates to a refusal of life-prolonging treatment this must be recorded in writing and witnessed.
A Living Will or an Advanced Decision lets those around you know what your wishes are even if you cannot communicate them yourself. Whilst these documents are not generally legally binding they are both recognised and respected by medical professionals as a authoritative expression of your wishes for treatment at the end of life.
Most people would like to think that their last days will be happy and peaceful and spent with friends and family. Many are also fearful that the medical treatment that they will recieve at that time may lead to unnecessary suffering.
A large proportion of our clients express the wish that they want to be ‘let go with a bit of dignity’ when their time comes.