How to Make an Advance Decision

Over the last few blog posts, we have discussed Lasting Power of Attorneys and how they can help you if there comes a time where you lack the mental capacity to make vital medical decisions. There is still a way, however, to make your own wishes known in such circumstances. In order to prepare for this, it is advisable to learn how to make an advance decision.

What are advance decisions?

Popularly known as a ‘living will,’ according to the NHS an advance decision is a document where you state your wishes to refuse certain medical treatments at a future date. It is not the same as an advance statement (also often referred to as a living will), which the NHS explains is “a written statement that sets down your preferences, wishes, beliefs and values regarding your future care.”

Primarily an advance decision, which can be legally binding, is designed to let family, carers and medical professionals know whether you want to refuse specific treatments. It can be used to refuse life-sustaining treatments, such as ventilation and cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is used when your heart stops or you stop breathing. It is wise to discuss these issues with doctors and other healthcare professionals before making an advance decision.

Making an advance decision

There are no government forms for advanced decisions, although some organisations do provide templates. When making this document it is necessary to include your name, date of birth and address, along with details of your GP. Ensure that you specify which treatments you want to refuse, providing as much detail as possible so your wishes are followed to the letter. We would also suggest that you sign and date the document and ask someone to witness your signature.

If you wish to use an advance decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment, there are some requirements you have to follow. It has to be written down, as well as signed and dated by you. Somebody must serve as a witness of your signature and sign the document themselves. It is vital that you include a written statement saying that the wishes outlined in your advance decision apply to the treatment in question ‘even if life is at risk as a result.’

Legally binding document

This leads us to the question, how can you make sure your advance decision is legally binding? First it must apply to the situation. Second, it must comply with the Mental Capacity Act, as only those with acceptable mental capacity can make advance decisions. Third, it must be valid and there are a number of criteria to this last point:

  • You must have been aged 18 or over and possessed the mental capacity to make, understand and communicate your wishes when writing your advance decision.
  • You need to have specified clearly in your advance decision which treatments you wish to refuse.
  • You need to have expressly communicated in your advance decision the circumstances in which you wish to refuse specific treatments.
  • The advance decision must have been made by you, of your own accord, without harassment from a third party.
  • You must not have done or said anything since you made the advance decision that would contradict the provisions laid out in the document e.g. said that you have changed your mind and want to receive a treatment you previously said you want to refuse.

Prestige Tax and Trust Services

Making an advance decision involves a range of complex considerations. It is advisable to enlist expert legal aid when preparing yourself for the future. Prestige Tax and Trust Services offers a range of living will services, ensuring that your interests are protected throughout your life.

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