House Clearance Help & Advice: A living will and advanced directives explained
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Everyone in the UK is by law allowed to make the decision about what treatment they receive or refuse to have, however this works ok providing you can tell them what your wishes are. However if you were to become too ill to communicate then it would be down to your family’s wishes, not yours, unless you had written a living will.
Even if you have talked over with your closest relatives what it is you wish to happen if the situation arises, this is still not legally binding and doesn’t necessarily mean that your wishes will be followed. However if you have prepared a written directive then this is a different matter.
An advance directive or living will lays out what it is that you want to happen in a variety of situations and ensures that your wishes are followed. Many different situations can be covered by the directive, for instance if you needed a life saving operation or even something as simple as who would look after your beloved cat or dog should something happen to you and you couldn’t.
As along as the Doctor believes that you were of sound mind when you wrote the directive then the instructions contained within it must be followed. There are several different types of living will or advance statement and this fall under the categories below.
In the case of medical treatment then you could make an advance statement about what type of treatment you wanted and wouldn’t want under certain circumstances. This can be a wide variety of different circumstances in which you were too ill to speak and make your wishes be known at that time.
A living will usually dictates the type of treatment that you would like at the end of your life. These usually come into effect if your Doctor states that you have less than 6 months to live and are a way of expressing yourself individually.
You can also appoint someone else in advance to make a decision for you, however the legality of this isn’t quite clear and as such if it came to making a major medical decision then a Doctor might not go by the proxy decision unless you can prove without a doubt that this was the person’s wishes.
There are also documents called care pathways, these give guidance so that health care professionals know they are acting in the best interest of the patient.
The only time that a Doctor won’t follow a directive is if they think it means acting against their best clinical judgment, also you cannot use a directive to demand that a Doctor uses a certain type of treatment. You cannot for example ask a Doctor to give you a huge dose of drugs that would end your life as this is unlawful and you also cannot refuse to have basic care.
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