What is a Living Will and why would I need one?

A Living Will (or Advance Decision, to give it’s official name) is a document which enables you to express the wish that, under certain clearly specified conditions, you would not want to be kept alive artificially.

It is not a license for euthanasia, which is, of course, illegal in the United Kingdom. If you were unfortunate enough to be in an irreversible coma, or a persistent vegetative state, and therefore unable to make your own wishes known, a signed and witness Living Will would be accepted by the medical profession as a legally binding document and, if there was no hope of you ever enjoying an acceptable quality of life, the life support systems would be discontinued.

Once I’ve made a Living Will, is it certain to take effect, if needed?

Advances in medical science would, of course, be taken into account. If, for example, an irreversible coma today becomes reversible 10 years from now, your Living Will would be overridden. However, there is a long list of medical conditions over which a difference of opinion could arise between doctors and your family members, and the Living Will, being your voice, puts an end to the arguments.

What if I’ve already given someone Lasting Power of Attorney?

If you have made a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare matters, you have already given the necessary authority to your chosen Attorney(s) and therefore do not need a Living Will. However, the Living Will doesn’t offer all the benefits of the Lasting Power of Attorney and should not be seen as an alternative document.

Where should I keep my Living Will?

You’ll have two copies of the Living Will, one copy to keep at home and the other to be lodged with your GP and stored with your medical records. Both copies should be signed and witnessed.