What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is also known as an Advance Decision. It allows a person to specify any treatments they do not wish to be used in the future if they are unable to communicate that decision for themselves.
An advance decision to refuse treatment lets your healthcare team know your wishes are if you are not able to communicate them. It allows a person to refuse treatment, even if this leads to death. An Advance Decision is legally binding. This means that anyone caring for you must follow your instructions if you lose capacity.
The treatments you're deciding to refuse must all be named in the advance decision. You may want to refuse a treatment in some situations, but not others. If this is the case, you need to be clear about all the circumstances in which you want to refuse this treatment.
Although this may be a difficult subject to talk about, many people want their loved ones to know exactly what they would decide for themselves – if a situation arose where they could not communicate that decision for themselves. It is always best to discuss your Advance Decision with a healthcare professional and your family so they are aware that you have made a Living Will and understand what your wishes are and the reasons for them.
An Advance Decision to refuse treatment has to be clear setting out the circumstances where a person would not wish to receive treatment and it should set out whether the person wishes to receive any specific treatment (even if this leads to death). A Living Will cannot be used to ask for life to be brought to an end or for certain treatment to be used.
If a person intends to refuse certain life sustaining treatment, then it is essential they write down their wishes and this is signed and witnessed. They should hand a copy of their wishes over to their loved ones, GP and other medical professionals as well.