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Guide to Living Wills

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Guide Contents

Living Wills
Writing a Living Will
In the absence of a living will
Frequently asked questions about Living Wills
Further help and guidance about Living Wills

What is a Living Will?

A living will (also known as Advanced Directive in Scotland and Advance Decision in England) is a document which sets out the future medical wishes of an individual should they become terminally ill or require medical treatment at a time when they do not have the full mental capacity to make those relevant decisions.

The term 'Living Will' can be divided into two categories, Advanced Statement and an Advanced Decision. An Advanced Statement is purely informative and must be fully respected by health care professionals, it outlines the extent of medical intervention that the individual would like whereas an Advanced Decision is legally binding and details the individuals right to refuse any form of treatment from antibiotic medication to intravenous feeding and resuscitation.

Remember; if you've a living will it is a good idea to inform your next of kin of your wishes and let them know where this document is kept.

In England, Wales and Scotland a Living Will is considered to be a legally binding document which must be respected by all medical professionals. However, in Northern Ireland this is not yet the case.

Many people view Living Wills as a method which empowers individuals by enabling them to take control of any medical intervention whilst they are in sound mind, alternatively the health care professionals would look to close family or friends to make those decisions at what is already a traumatic time.

Living Wills can be particularly useful if strong opinions are held with regard to certain treatments due to personal or religious beliefs such as a Jehovah Witness not wanting a blood transfusion for example.

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