With a Living Will you can outline your personal wishes regarding medical treatment should a situation arise in the future where you get seriously ill and you’re not able to express your wishes.
You can use Living Will forms in England & Wales, and Scotland. But in England & Wales it is also known as an Advance Decision.
When you may need a Living Will
Many people are concerned about what will happen to them if they become very ill and are unable to communicate their wishes to anyone. Many fear the loss of dignity and the significantly decreased quality of life which can result from degenerative health conditions.
Medical technology has now advanced to such a degree that people can be kept alive even when they are brain dead. Some people, after careful consideration and discussion with their doctors, decide that they don’t want to receive treatments which would result in a meaningless and prolonged artificial existence.
They want to have the benefit of recording their decisions and the peace of mind of knowing that this will be communicated to the doctors. Opinions on how long a life can and should be prolonged have become increasingly subjective and it’s increasingly acknowledged that people should be allowed to have a say in their future medical care.
If you go into a hospital or a nursing home without specific written instructions, or appropriate notes of conversations with doctors having been made on your medical notes, the institution you enter will be legally bound to keep you alive by whatever means are deemed necessary and appropriate by the medical staff.
You can express your rational views on the circumstances in which you wouldn’t want such attempts to keep you alive to continue. A Living Will form, which has been made when a patient is in good health, is advantageous later on and it’s good evidence of your true feelings.
When a Living Will applies
Doctors are sometimes reluctant to honour the refusals by seriously ill patients because they cannot be certain that the decision is rationally made. With a Living Will form, they can respect your wishes, but do note that only refusals of medical treatments or procedures outlined in the form are binding on medical staff.
Requests for special treatments (other than pain management and basic nursing) may have persuasive force, but doctors don’t have to follow instructions outlined in the form.
Communication with your family
A Living Will form can let your family know what you want. Many families don’t want to accept that their loved one isn’t going to recover and they, therefore, feel that they have to try any procedure which is available.
You can also use it to appoint someone whom doctors may consult on health care matters for you; this person is referred to as a Health Care Proxy.
It’s advisable that you discuss the options in the form with your doctor and family before completing it.
Remember that you can change your mind at any time about a prior written directive in the form and you can consent to treatment which you had previously decided to refuse.
Stop worrying and make a Living Will today.