A Living Will, also known as an Advance Directive, is a document that allows you to declare your views on receiving life-prolonging medical treatment should you become seriously ill and are no longer able to make decisions on your own health care. A Living Will can set out your wishes in general terms or it can detail your prospective refusal of any specific procedures or treatments that are aimed at prolonging your life. Such treatments could include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, artificial ventilation, invasive surgery or blood transfusion.
In the recent case of Brenda Grant, from Warwickshire, medical staff had misplaced her Living Will which resulted in her receiving life-prolonging treatment for almost two years following a stroke, contrary to her written wishes. Unfortunately, Mrs Grant had not made her family aware of her wishes or the existence of the Living Will and it was only once her GP discovered the document within her medical notes that the medical treatment was stopped. In an out-of-court settlement, the George Eliot Hospital Trust admitted liability and agreed to pay £45,000 in damages to Mrs Grant’s family.
Creating a Living Will allows you to formally express your wishes so that they may be given effect when you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your health or welfare. The aim of the medical profession has historically been to prolong life but as the number of suffers of age related conditions grow, it is essential that consideration is also given to the views of the patient. Many of us will now have experienced family members who have suffered from the indignity of their degradation and would not wish to have the same experience. The hospital trust’s admission that they acted improperly in not ensuring that their patient’s wishes were followed shows that the medical profession understand that there is now a balance to be found.
If you create a Living Will, we always recommend that you let your family and friends know that you have done so to ensure that it is not mislaid within your medical notes. We would also provide you with a copy of the Living Will for your personal papers and your doctor with a copy for their file. For more information on Living Wills please contact Blackadders.