The media recently reported the tragic case of Brenda Grant, who was kept alive against her wishes for 22 months.
Ms Grant prepared an Advance Medical Directive, also known as a Living Will, which stated that she did not wish to receive treatment to prolong her life if she suffered from particular critical medical aliments. Ms Grant duly had her Living Will placed with her medical notes, but did not advise her family of the document.
The purpose of a Living Will is to instruct doctors in relation to medical treatment which you would be willing to accept or not willing to accept should you be in a position where you are no longer able to communicate your choices to the doctor.
Ms Grant subsequently suffered a catastrophic stroke, which required her to be artificially fed. The Living Will stipulated that she did not wish to receive treatment which would prolong her life in such circumstances. Unfortunately, the Living Will was amongst a large volume of other medical notes, therefore the medical staff treating Ms Grant were not immediately aware of its existence. It was only brought to their attention when Ms Grant was to be re-admitted to hospital, and her GP (who was aware of the document) alerted them to it. Treatment was withdrawn, and Ms Grant passed away a few days later.
This would clearly have been a very distressing time for both Ms Grant and her family.
It can be very difficult for people to have conversations with loved ones about their wishes in the event that they lost capacity, and what their wishes would be in respect of medical treatment. It is very beneficial for a Living Will to be prepared, as it lets medical staff and loved ones know your wishes. The Living Will is sent to your GP, and it is also very important that loved ones are made aware of the Living Will. If loved ones and medical staff are aware of its existence, then your wishes can be respected. The Living Will could reduce the distress of loved ones in making the critical decisions in relation to your care, and seek to avoid disagreements.
In addition to preparing a Living Will, we would also recommend preparing a Power of Attorney. With a Welfare Power of Attorney, you can appoint a person to make decisions about your health and wellbeing, including medical decisions, in the event that you are no longer capable of making those decisions. Your Welfare Attorney has a duty to take into account your wishes. Whilst the Welfare Attorney has wide-reaching powers in relation to welfare decisions, a Living Will would be a source of comfort to them when making such decisions. If you have a Living Will, your Welfare Attorney can act in the satisfaction that you have carefully considered what treatment you may or may not wish to receive in certain circumstances, and have expressed those choices in a written statement.
If you are considering preparing a Living Will and a Power of Attorney, you can get in touch with one of our specialist solicitors on 0800 0891331 who will be able to provide you with further advice. Our solicitors keep the process straightforward, and can allow you peace of mind that you have planned for the future.
Blog by Amy Wardrop, Solicitor