Campaigner, Esther Rantzen, continues to raise important matters even as she deals with her own health issues. 
 
She inspired a debate in the Houses of Parliament about medical assistance for people at the end of their life. The debate was in response to a petition signed by over 200,000 people. 
supporting someone at the end of their life is much easier if they have use their wishes known in a living Will.
However, the government still regards a change in the law as very sensitive. It says if parliament thinks the law on assisted dying should change, the government won’t stand in its way. It would focus on how to legally enforce such a change. 
 
In the meantime, if you are facing the challenges of terminal or incurable and worsening illness you can create a living Will. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have. 
 

What is a living Will? 

A living Will is a document which states you refuse specific medical treatment or interventions in the future. It is only used if you no longer have mental capacity to make or communicate the decision for yourself. 
 
A living Will is also known as an advance decision or advance directive. Legally it is known as an ‘advance decision to refuse treatment’ which is binding in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. 
 

Why would I make a living Will? 

If you are ill or have an accident you might not have capacity to make decisions about your care or treatment. If you have set up a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for your health and welfare you can choose someone to make these decisions for you. This can include whether you should receive treatment. However, your attorney could find this very difficult if you haven’t written down your wishes. 
 
If there are specific situations you want to avoid or medical treatments you don’t want, you can include them in a living Will. For example, you might have seen a friend or relative struggling with illness and unable to make choices for themselves. You might already have a serious illness or want to prepare for later life. For example, you might want to refuse some life-sustaining treatments, resuscitation, invasive procedures or certain medications. 
 
Most people make a living Will while they are well so their relatives and doctors know what they do and don’t want to happen. In case of an emergency, it’s a good idea to give your next of kin, your attorneys and your GP a copy of your wishes. You might also keep a copy with you and with your LPA. 
 

Does a doctor have to follow my living Will? 

A valid and applicable living Will must meet certain requirements. If it meets these standards it has the same effect as making the decision yourself when you have mental capacity. 
 
Having your wishes clearly written down means your doctors know about any treatments you don’t want to receive. It’s difficult to anticipate all the things that might happen so it’s helpful to explain the reasons for your choices. You might want to discuss the purpose you had in mind for your living Will with your doctor as well as a friend or relative. 
 

Who can make a living Will 

If you’re over 18 and have mental capacity you can make a living Will which is in writing, 
signed and witnessed. Anyone can witness it, including a relative. Once made, you should review your living Will regularly, perhaps every two years, and if your health or wishes change. You don’t need to use a solicitor or consult your doctor to make a living Will. 
 
Note: DNR (do not resuscitate) 
A DNR form is completed by a doctor to make sure you won’t receive inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). However, you can include refusal of CPR in your living Will too. 
 
If you would like to set up a health and welfare LPA or find out more about a living Will just give me a call. 
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