Living Wills or Advanced Medical Directives have been in the news quite a lot recently however like Wills these are documents which very few people have in place. A recent poll has revealed 82% of people have strong views about their medical/end of life treatment yet less than 4% have made an Advanced Medical Directive.
An Advanced Medical Directive is a written document stating your wishes in relation to medical treatment and can be put in place by anyone over the age of 16 who has capacity to make decisions for themselves to cover them when they are no longer able to make those decisions.
When looking to put in place an Advanced Medical Directive it is recommended you contact your GP or healthcare provider who will be able to advise you on the effects of withholding certain treatments and a solicitor to have these properly prepared in accordance with your wishes.
Although in Scotland, these are not legally binding they give an indication of your wishes which are used as guidance by family and medical staff when making a decision in relation to any required treatment (for example Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), use of ventilators, administration of antibiotics and being given food and oral hydration either through a feeding tube or drip) . It has not yet been challenged in Scotland and these documents are relied upon to carry out treatment in accordance with your wishes.
An example of situations where decisions would be helpful as to the treatment you would wish could depend on several factors for example if you were involved in an accident and were likely to make a full recovery and then took and infection you would likely wish treatment by antibiotics if however you were not likely to make a recovery or if you had a terminal illness with a short life expectancy you may wish to refuse antibiotics to treat the infection.
A copy of the document should be passed to your GP for noting on your file, your attorney, your next of kin and any close friends/family all of whom should be aware of it’s existence and your wishes. This will prevent any disagreements over any treatment you will require and allows your wishes to be fulfilled. Some people choose to include their wishes in their Power of Attorney however others prefer this to be a separate document in the event their health changes. These documents like your Will and Powers of Attorney should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that your wishes are current and up-to-date as these may change if your health was to deteriorate.
If you do not have an Advanced Medical Directive or a Power of Attorney detailing your wishes then the doctor will make the decisions as to what course of treatment will benefit you at the time and not your family and friends as most people think.
If you wish more information on this or would like to put an Advanced Medical Directive, Will or Power of Attorney.
The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.