Writing a will Living Wills explained

Old couple

Making a living will allows you to dictate how you'll be treated when you're about to die

Some people may want to set out their wishes for the future if they become terminally ill, or in the event they need medical treatment but have lost the mental capacity to make those decisions. 

In order to do this, you can make a Living Will.

What is a Living Will?

The term 'Living Will' can be divided into two categories:

An Advance Statement

This type of living will provides information on the level of medical treatment you want should you become terminally ill. It must be respected by health care professionals and could include some of the following:

  • Where you would like to be cared for (at home, or in a hospice)
  • How your medical treatment might be affected by religious or spiritual beliefs
  • How you might want to be treated in a home or hospice (like whether you’d like to be bathed or showered)

An Advanced Statement is not legally binding, but the NHS states that anyone in charge of your care must take your wishes into consideration through this statement. Record of an Advanced Statement should be stored with your medical records.

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An Advance Decision

If you want to refuse certain types of treatment in the future, you can write an Advance Decision, sometimes called an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment. This enables you to dictate the terms of your treatment should you be physically unable to communicate them, due to an accident for example. 

Within this document, you can be specific about the treatment you do not want to receive. You can also refuse treatment that may keep you alive, like life support or CPR. You must be as clear as possible on the circumstances for your refusal of treatment

Making an Advance Decision legally binding

Much like making a will, your advance decision must be written and signed by both you and a witness. It must comply with the Mental Capacity Act and once signed supersedes any decision taken by other people on your behalf. . 

The NHS suggests speaking a doctor or nurse about the treatment you want to avoid and the implications for doing so.

You have the final say on who sees the document, but you should make sure that your family, carers and/or health and social care professionals know about it, and know where to find it. You can keep a copy in your medical records.

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Last updated:

June 2016

Updated by:

Ian Robinson

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