The tragic case of Archie Battersbee has brought into focus the legal position regarding the rights of individuals in relation to end of life decisions.  As well as the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child, his parents had the anguish of not being able to decide how and when Archie’s life ended.

Archie’s parents are now campaigning for a change in the law as they faced a lengthy legal challenge to be able to make these decisions, which they ultimately lost.  As a child, Archie could not have taken any steps to avoid this situation but there are ways that adults can do so.

Living Wills and Advance Decisions

A “Living Will” is a commonly used term to describe a document expressing wishes regarding medical treatment.  Although it is not actually a Will at all since it doesn’t deal with a person’s property on death.  The correct legal term is in fact an “Advance Directive”.

Anyone over 18 with mental capacity can prepare a statement of the medical treatment they would like to refuse or how they would like to be cared for if, as in Archie’s case, they are unable to communicate those wishes themselves.

Basic care and treatment cannot be refused, and neither can specific treatment be demanded but, if prepared correctly, the statement of Advance Decisions (often called a living will) is legally binding on medical professionals.  Many people have also made a DNR/DNAR (Do Not (Attempt) Resuscitation) request to their GP to be kept on their medical record to cover that specific situation.

Lasting Powers of Attorney for Health and Care Decisions

Living Wills and Advance Decisions deal with end-of-life treatment and care but a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Care Decisions covers these and other decisions which need to be made when an individual cannot make them for themselves.  These include treatment which is not necessarily life-sustaining and care received in a wide range of situations, from diet to living in a care home.

Within the Lasting Power of Attorney, you can also decide to allow your attorneys to make decisions in relation to life-sustaining treatment and, once registered, the Lasting Power of Attorney is legally binding. A further statement of guidance can also be produced to inform your attorneys of your wishes so that these can be carried out on your behalf if the eventuality arises.

At Backhouse Solicitors, our expert solicitors would be happy to draw up a Living Will for you or offer advice surrounding Lasting Powers of Attorneys for Health and Care Decisions. Contact our friendly Private Client team to book your free 30-minute appointment.

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