End of life decisions
Can you decide how you want your life to end?
There are frequent articles in the press about ‘assisted suicide’ and ‘the right to die’. Many of them are sensational and not always based on fact. So what is the legal position?
The law in England does not permit assisted suicide but there are two kinds of document you can sign to make your wishes clear to doctors and family.
Want to find out more? Our dedicated team of wills and probate solicitors in Birmingham are here to assist you. We will take full details of your matter and provide you with an accurate quote and sound advice.
Lasting power of attorney for health and welfare
You could sign a lasting power of attorney for health and welfare document. This enables a person to appoint one or more other people to speak on their behalf with regard to health and welfare issues when they can no longer make their wishes known.
This document covers not just end of life decisions but how you would wish to be treated if you could no longer communicate your views to others.
For example, the attorney may decide which care home you should move to. The attorney makes the decisions when you, the donor of the power, has lost the mental capacity to do so. All decisions must be taken in your best interests. The power of attorney must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used.
Due to the length of time it takes to register the document, we recommend it be registered as soon as you sign it.
Advanced medical decision
The other document is an ‘advanced medical decision’ or ‘advanced directive’ but is frequently referred to in common parlance as ‘a living will.’
This document sets out what you wish to happen in certain circumstances. It has to be written very clearly and be appropriate to the particular circumstances applying at any one time.
For example, if you are diagnosed with cancer or dementia you could set out how you wish to be treated when you are no longer capable of giving instructions to medical professionals. The document needs to be signed, dated and witnessed.
Professional guidance is essential due to the need for clarity and there are some things you cannot do in such a document.
For instance, you cannot request your life be deliberately ended, nor can you request to be kept artificially alive. On the other hand, you may request the withdrawal of treatment even if the effect will be to hasten your death.
We recommend you notify the consultant treating you of the advanced directive and ensure it is noted on your records. If the doctors treating you are unaware of the document’s existence, they may continue with treatment, especially in an emergency situation.