What is a “Living Will” and How Do I Make One?

Thursday 22nd March 2018

A living Will is the term people often use when referring to an “advance decision” as it is called under the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

An advance decision enables a person to refuse specified medical treatment at a time in the future when they may lack the capacity to give or refuse consent to that treatment. To make an advance decision you must be over 18 and have the mental capacity at the time to understand the nature and effect of the document.

There is no set form for an advance decision; it may be in writing or given verbally, but it must say exactly what treatment you want to refuse, and a written advance decision is always to be preferred. It can cover the refusal of any medical treatment, such as taking antibiotics, blood transfusions etc. It can also include the refusal to accept life sustaining treatment, such as support systems, drugs, resuscitation and even artificial feeding and hydration, but if the advance decision refuses life-sustaining treatment, it must be in writing, signed and witnessed, and state clearly that the decision applies even if your life is at risk.

An advance decision is a curious mix of legal and medical document, and can take many forms; some running to several pages and others only one or two pages long. We can help you make an advance decision and provide a form of words to use, which is usually quite simple. However, we are not medically trained and would always recommend that you discuss the decision with your medical adviser.

Once made, it is essential that a copy of the advance decision is held on your medical records and we also recommend that you “re-make” the decision every few years, to avoid it being challenged at the critical time.