What Is A Living Will?

Posted: 06/02/2018

If there is one thing certain in life, it is that death one will one day finally dawn upon us. Making plans for what happens to us after we have passed away is something we all need to think about at some point or another, and it is something to organise sooner rather than later. Having the choice of what happens to us, or decisions we would like to have made on our behalf if we are unable to communicate this at a later point is something many people feel is incredibly important.

Similar to a will, we help you find the lowest cost pre paid funeral plans as a way of avoiding higher funeral cots in the future.

We tend to think of wills of being the way in which we get to state our needs and wants for after our death. But have you ever considered, or heard about, a living will? Here is our guide on everything you need to know about living wills, in order to decide whether it may be a suitable option for you.

What is a living will

A living will allows you to state your wishes regarding medical treatment at a later date. Those who are terminally ill, or suffer from a degenerative condition that means they may lose their mental capacity to express their wishes in the future may want to consider the benefits of a living will.

Generally speaking, living wills can be split into two different categories, depending upon your needs.

An advance decision

This type of living will allow you to express and specify exactly what treatment you do not want to receive. This means that if you are concerned that you may not be able to communicate this at the time of treatment, your living will be able to show that you have chosen to not receive certain types of treatment in advance.  Types of treatment that you can refuse includes:

  • Medical treatment intended to keep you alive such as life support
  • CPR

If you choose to make an advance decision, it is incredibly important that you make it clear exactly the conditions and circumstances in which you would prefer to refuse certain types of medical treatment.

What things should I consider when making my advance decision?

Clearly, making a living will is a delicate decision to make, and when making it you should try to think very carefully about what exactly it is that you do not want to receive medical treatment for. When making the advance decision, it is important to consider that:

  • You cannot use the advance decision in order to ask for your life to be ended
  • It cannot be used to request specific types of treatment
  • When it comes to refusing treatment it is essential that you state the exact circumstances you would not want to receive that type of treatment under.
  • It should also state whether you want to receive a certain medical treatment, even if this may end up in death.

What do I do next?

When it comes to making your advance decision, you need to make sure that it is legally binding in order for you to receive the treatment that you want should you need it. it is vital that it is written and signed by you, but also making sure that a witness is present when you sign the advance decision. In addition, it is essential that your advance decision complies with the Mental Capacity Act in order for it to be legally binding.

An advance statement

The second type of living goes into further detail as to the sort of medical treatment you would like to receive if you were to become terminally ill. An advance statement also allows you to specify the level of medical intervention you would like. Healthcare professionals looking after you will have to take into consideration your advance statement which will be stored with your medical files. However, it is important to remember that unlike an advance decision an advance statement is not legally binding, however, it will be taken into account when it comes to the treatment you receive and the NHS states that it should be considered. You can check with Which? as to where exactly you stand legally when it comes to your advance statement.

The types of treatment you can specifiy in your advance statement includes:

  • Medical treatment that could affect your spiritual beliefs or religious beliefs.
  • You can also specify where you prefer to be treated, such as at a hospice or at home.
  • You can also state how you are cared for, such as whether you would prefer being showered or bathed
  • Your dietary requirements
  • What clothes you would prefer to wear
  • Who you would like to visit you during this time
  • Foods you prefer and those you don’t
  • Whether you prefer to sleep with a light on
  • The times that you prefer to go to bed and wake up at
  • The sort of clothes you would prefer to wear
  • The people that you would like to be consulted about aspects of your care

Once you have recorded your advance statement, you should give a copy to all those who need to know about your wishes concerning your medical treatment should you need it. This includes people such as your GP, medical team and care staff.

Who should I discuss my living will with?

It is recommended by the NHS that prior to writing your living will stating your wishes for medical treatment, you speak with a nurse or doctor about any implications involved if you refused certain medical treatment. This will enable you to make an informed decision on your living will. You should try to talk to a healthcare professional who already knows your medical history in order that they can provide you with information that caters to your own personal medical situation. It is also recommended that you let those close to you, such as your family, carers or healthcare professionals about the existence of the document, so that they are aware of what your wishes are. It is important to remember however though, that you decide who does or doesn’t see the document.

For insuring your contents, see Agree Insure for more information.