A living will, also known as an advance decision, is a choice you make in advance of illness or old age about your wishes for future medical treatments in the event that you are unable to give consent later on. This could be a decision to refuse treatment at a certain stage of illness or the type of care you wish to receive.
It is advised that if you are thinking about making this kind of decision, you write this in a living will. If you wish to refuse life-sustaining treatment, medical professionals are then able to respect your decision.
What does a living will do?
A living will allows healthcare professionals to act on your behalf when it comes to refusing medical care. If written up as a living will, your wishes are legally binding and therefore must be followed by those caring for you. It is often a good idea to give your close family or friends a copy too, allowing them to understand your wishes and talk it through if needed.
You can change your living will at any point whilst you are still able to consent and it will only be used if you lose the ability to be able to communicate your wishes.
How to write a living will
If you are looking to write a living will, you don’t need to involve a solicitor. As long as it meets the below requirements, then it is legally binding for healthcare professionals to follow your instructions.
The requirements for a living will to be legally binding are:
- Your wishes are in writing.
- It outlines the types of treatment and circumstances where treatment should be refused.
- You are over 18 years of age.
- At the time of writing, you are able to understand the consequences of your decisions.
- It has been signed by you and a witness.
What does a living will consist of?
It is entirely your decision what instructions you wish to declare in your living will. This list has some suggestions of information you may want to include:
- Daily care preferences (such as food likes and dislikes, clothing your prefer or the hours you wish to sleep).
- Where you would like to be (for example, your own home, a care home or a hospice).
- Who will be consulted about your medical care decisions.
- Who you would like to visit you.
- Religious beliefs or values.
- Preferences about particular medical treatments.
- Preferences about ‘life-sustaining care’ (i.e. treatments such as artificial nutrition and hydration, artificial breathing, or CPR).
Organising a living will can give you and your family peace of mind during an emotionally stressful time. It is also a good chance to talk openly with your loved ones about what is to come, so everyone is as prepared as possible for the road ahead.