A living will is a decision to refuse a specific treatment in the future. This decision is written down so it can be referenced if you get into an accident or become ill. Many people decide to refuse treatment because it does not coincide with their religious beliefs, but you can refuse treatment for any reason. The living will sets out in writing the reasons and the specific treatment you would like to refuse e.g. I would like to refuse a blood transfusion because it goes against my religious beliefs. Making a living will means that you get to make decisions regarding your treatment now for when you may otherwise be incapacitated in the future.
How to create a living will:
  • A living will must include the following:
  • Be written down
  • Signed by you
  • Signed by a witness (if you wish to refuse lifesaving treatment)
  • Contain the specific treatments you wish to refuse
  • And detail the circumstances in which this applies

There are also templates online which can serve as a guide to completing this document. Living wills must be specific in what treatment they refuse otherwise they will not be followed.A living will is legally binding if it complies with the Mental Capacity Act, this assesses whether you have the capabilities mentally to make these decisions. To gain legal status the living will must also be valid (all formalities complied with) and apply to the situation outlined. If you intend to refuse life-saving treatment (life-sustaining treatments) where you could die as a result, this will need to be stated clearly in your living will. A living will is invalidated if it is written as the result of harassment or if you do or say anything which contradicts the codicil.

If you decide to write a living will it is also essential to pass this on to your GP and discuss your decision with your loved ones, so they are prepared if the worst happens.

Important considerations:

If valid, an advance decision will take precedence over the opinion of doctors and what they believe to be in your best interest. It is therefore very important to think carefully about your decision and complete research on the treatment you would like to refuse as refusing treatment in a living will could result in your life ending abruptly.You may find it helpful to talk to a doctor or nurse about the kinds of treatments you might be offered in certain circumstances and the effects of these so you can make an informed decision.

It is also important to consider how you may feel if you don't create a living will and receive treatment which goes against your beliefs. If the thought of this makes you uncomfortable it may be in your best interests to make these decisions pre-emptively, so your future treatment coincides with your belief system. Making a living will is the opportunity to decide now when you may not have the ability to in the future, it's a way of looking after your future interests in the present.

How SharedAffairs can help:

SharedAffairs specialises in online secure document storage and if you decide to write a living will, we can store this for you and send it to your selected contact if required. This means that if you get into an accident or become ill your contact can request to view your documents and ensure you receive only the treatment that you wish to.

To learn more:

Avance decision to refuse treatment

Living will advance decision

Other resources

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