A Supreme Court ruling recently made the headlines after judges ruled that medical professionals will no longer need to apply to the court to suspend artificial feeding of patients in a persistent vegetative state. Some argue that this will prevent the prolonged suffering of those being kept alive by artificial means, but what is clear is that this will undoubtedly make it easier for doctors to withdraw life-sustaining treatment in future.
Doctors have previously been able to withdraw treatment with the agreement of family members when they considered it to be in a patient’s best interests, but were still required to make an application to the court to withdraw food and water.
This ruling highlights the benefits of preparing an Advance Directive.
An Advance Directive (commonly called a “Living Will”) is a written document which sets out your wishes regarding medical treatment and allows you to refuse certain types of life-sustaining treatment. 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 treatment.
Having an Advance Directive in place ensures your wishes will be taken into consideration by medical professionals involved in your care.
An Advance Directive can be tailored to suit your individual wishes, but typically includes
- a statement that you do not wish to receive CPR if your quality of life afterwards is likely to be poor. This procedure has only a 2 in 10 chance of survival, and can leave surviving patients requiring prolonged high-intensity care.
- a statement refusing artificial feeding (through tubes or a drip) if there is no reasonable prospect of your recovery.
- a statement refusing the use of a ventilator to keep you alive if you are no longer able to breathe independently.
- a statement refusing the use of antibiotics or other medications (other than pain management) if you are not expected to survive for more than a few days.
Advance Directives are useful as they allow you to give clinical and legal instructions about your treatment choices should you lose capacity; and can also provide comfort and guidance to your family who may be facing difficult decisions about your end of life care.
Setting up and Advance Directive is straightforward and can give you and your family peace of mind. Our Private Client team are on hand to answer any questions you may have. Please contact us below.