What is an Advanced Decision?
When you are ill, if you retain mental capacity you can discuss treatment options with your doctor and then reach a decision about your future care. However, you may be admitted to hospital when unconscious or unable to make your own decisions about your treatment or communicate your wishes. For example, this may happen if you have a car accident or a suffer a stroke or develop dementia. You would ‘lack capacity’ to make or communicate your decision in these situations.
During these times, doctors must act in your best interests. The exception is if you have made an Advanced Decision. Advance Decisions are legally binding and let you indicate that you want to refuse certain types of medical treatment in certain situations. Advance Decisions must be respected by medical professionals providing your care, whether or not they think it’s in your best interests.
What is the difference between Advance Decisions, Living Wills and Advance Statements?
Living Wills can also refer to an Advance Statement. While Advance Decisions let you refuse certain types of treatment, Advance Statements cover any other decisions about how you would like to be treated. For example, you could specify your food preferences and your religious and other beliefs. Only an Advance Decision is legally binding, but an Advance Statement should be taken into account.
Why make an Advance Decision?
If you have strong feelings about particular types of treatment, you may wish to make an Advance Decision. For example, you may want to refuse a blood transfusion, or an amputation. If you have been told you have a terminal illness or dementia, you may wish to indicate which types of treatment you would not want to receive in the future. An Advance Decision can give you peace of mind knowing your wishes won’t be ignored.
It is important to note that the decisions you authorise your attorney(s) to make on your behalf in a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare will take the place of any Advance Decision that you have already made on the same subject.