November 29, 2018
Did you know you can make choices and decisions now about how you are cared for in the future?
Most of us know all about the benefits of making a Will when planning for the future or maybe a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) to allow people to look after our financial affairs, but did you know there are different types of Wills and LPA’s you can make which deal with your wishes over your health and welfare?
One type that is perhaps less well known is commonly referred to as a ‘Living Will.’
In fact, a Living Will is not actually a Will at all, it’s more formal title is ‘Advance Decision’ (or ‘Advance Directive.’)
So, what is a ‘Living Will’ (or Advance Decision?)
It is not currently possible to ask a doctor to end your life, but it is possible to refuse medical treatment that may prolong your life, or even to agree to treatment which is intended to control pain but may have the effect of ending your life prematurely. Many people choose to do this by way of a “Living Will”. This document can instruct your doctors what to do – or not do – in certain circumstances if you are unable to communicate your wishes at that time.
The document is straightforward to prepare and is immediately effective once it is signed.
However, it is rigid. Your wishes are essentially set in stone – you can cancel or change the document while you are physically and mentally able to do so, but if you lose mental capacity your medical team will have to respect the wishes set out in the document even if, in fact, you have changed your mind because legally you do not have the capacity to alter it.
If you are considering a Living Will it is advisable to discuss this with your doctors and family or friends to ensure that they understand your wishes.
What about a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare allows you to appoint one or more people to make decisions for you if you are no longer able to legally make them for yourself. This means that you don’t have to make a decision now about what should happen in certain circumstances. You can appoint someone who understands your concerns, and what will be bearable for you and what will not, and can consider the best thing to do for you in the actual circumstances of your eventual illness.
A Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare can also be used by your attorney to make decisions about where you should live, people who should – or should not – visit you, and generally about every aspect of your welfare if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself.
It is flexible and comprehensive – but it is more expensive to enter into than an Advance Decision.
If you are considering putting measures in place to maintain control over your end of life decisions, or are interested in discussing a Health and Welfare LPA, contact Carolyn Monaghan for sympathetic and comprehensive advice.
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