A Living Will, a document which is legally referred to as an Advance Decision in England, is a way of ensuring the circumstances under which you would not want to receive life-sustaining medical treatment if you became seriously ill in the future and became incapable of making your own healthcare decisions.
The main types of treatments commonly covered by Living Wills are artificial feeding, mechanical ventilation, antibiotic therapy and resuscitation. The Living Will should indicate whether or not you wish for these tactics to be used to prolong or perhaps save your life, although it should be noted that you cannot ask for your life to be deliberately terminated, as this would then dip into the realm of euthanasia, which is illegal in this country.
In England and Wales, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into force in April 2007, forming the legal basis for Advance Decisions, which must be followed by healthcare professionals, regardless of their professional opinion on any particular patient and their condition.The document must be signed whilst you are mentally capable and there are of course some limitations. For example, you are unable to use an advance decision to:
ask for your life to be terminated
force doctors to act against their professional judgement
nominate someone else to decide about treatment on your behalf
Living Wills should be regularly reviewed and updated as medical advances and your own views and preferences can change. They can be cancelled at any time, either verbally or in writing.
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