On listening to a recent BBC Radio 4 programme, “Permanent Vegetative State: Withdrawing Nutrition and Hydration”, it was brought home how important it is to set up a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, particularly when considering an individual’s quality of life. The programme discussed a number of case studies; however one of the panellist’s experiences struck a sad, but all too common chord.
Professor Celia Kitzinger’s sister, Polly, was in a coma following a motor accident. Polly’s condition had deteriorated and Professor Kitzinger recalled that her family had moved from hoping for Polly’s recovery to wishing that she had an easy release. Polly’s family had been aware of Polly’s wishes not to receive life-sustaining treatment in a situation where her quality of life had been significantly diminished; and had communicated this to the medical team treating her. However, the consultants disagreed with the family’s stance and continued to provide life sustaining treatment.
Professor Kitzinger remarked during the discussion that while Polly had written down how she wanted to be treated in such circumstances, her wishes were not in a “legally binding form”. She highlighted that had Polly taken out a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare; her appointed attorney (someone acting on Polly’s behalf) could have insisted on adherence to Polly’s wishes on how she wanted to be treated by those treating her. Such a scenario highlights the importance of the LPA.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare?
An LPA for Health and Welfare allows an individual (the donor) to give a third party (the attorney) the authority to make decisions about their health and welfare. An important point to note is that unlike the LPA for Property and Financial Affairs, attorneys can only make decisions concerning the donor’s welfare once they have lost the ability to make decisions for themselves.
This is an important control mechanism, as the LPA allows the donor to give the attorney the power to determine whether treatment is given or refused. This is also a key component of the LPA as it gives the donor a voice in a situation where they otherwise would be dependent on medical professionals making decisions, which may not necessarily be in accordance with their wishes, as in Polly’s case.
However, an LPA for Health and Welfare is not restricted to being used to direct medical professionals on your treatment in hospital, but can also be used to direct your attorney in other ways. For example:
- Where you want to live; whether at your own home or in a care facility
- Day-to-day decisions such as your diet, dress and where to take you out for fresh air or other leisure activities
- In a business setting, how you would like your business interests to be organised if you are unable to make decisions yourself, such as who should take over running your company
While the above may seem to be simplistic requests, the LPA for Health and Welfare can ensure that in a situation where you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, those who are in charge of your care, be it your family or health care professionals, know your wishes and are able to act on them to ensure you live the life you would have wanted. The LPA also ensures that end of life decisions such as the treatment you receive reflect your values and provides your loved ones with the satisfaction that they have adhered to those values you hold dear, until the end.
At Backhouse Solicitors we are here to help you prepare for the unexpected. We provide our clients with professional advice from qualified solicitors on Lasting Powers of Attorneys for Health and Welfare and for Property and Financial affairs. If would like further advice or guidance then please contact our team today for a free consultation.
Or visit our offices at 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, CM1 1JU.
The Backhouse Solicitors Team