Written by Rebecca Johnstone, Senior Associate Solicitor at Spire Solicitors LLP
Advances in technology have led to many a break through in medicines and medical treatment and as such we can live longer and fight disease where we had not in the past.
With each new technology that is released to the world we have the choice whether to use it, buy it, take part in it and this is also the case for medical treatment.
What happens, though, when you are unable to make your decisions about medical treatment known to medical professionals because you are not mentally able to do so? When you lack the ability to give your instructions to your GP, consultant, surgeon or EMT?
You still have options but you must think about them now:
Advance decisions to refuse treatment (also known as living wills)
An advance decision gives you the opportunity to write down, communicating your specific preferences, those treatments that you do not wish to receive in any given circumstance when you are unable to communicate those decisions for yourself at the time. This may be because you have a prolonged disorder of consciousness or a permanent and serious illness where there is no likelihood of recovery. As such you can legally refuse medical treatment.
The advance directive is then lodged with your medical practitioner and you can carry a card with you in your wallet confirming you have one and who to contact.
As long as the advance directive is valid and applicable it will be legally binding on the health professionals.
Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health and Welfare
You can also make a Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney which is separate to a Lasting Powers of Attorney for Financial and Property. By making a Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney you can be sure to appoint someone who you completely trust to make decisions on your behalf.
Below are some examples of the decisions your attorney can make:
- Making arrangements for your medical, dental and optical treatment.
- Arranging assessments for your care with the social services.
- Access to your health and social care records.
- Making a complaint about your medical treatment.
- Giving or refusing top consent to particular types of health treatment including life sustaining treatment.
- Your day to day routine including your diet.
- Where you live.
If you do not have a Lasting Powers of Attorney in place and you lose mental capacity, the resulting process can be both time consuming and expensive. Your family or friends would need to apply to the Court of Protection to gain access to be able to make decisions. As a result you may have individuals acting for you who you may not have chosen.
Act Now: You can only make a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney when you have mental capacity to understand the scope and extent of the power.
What to do now: It is possible to have both a Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney and an advance directive but it requires careful drafting to avoid conflict and ensure that they are valid for the purpose they will be used for.
If you would like to discuss any points in this article further, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077 for all your legal needs.