The Supreme Court has recently ruled that legal permission will no longer be required to withdraw care for those individuals in a ‘vegetative state’. The ruling has been made following the case of a patient referred to as ‘Mr. Y’, who suffered a heart attack last year and was deemed unresponsive and to have no chance of recovery. Although legal permission is not required it is good practice that matters such as these are passed to the Court of Protection (‘COP’) for consideration.
Although it is difficult to know what care needs may arise for you in the future, you do have the ability to make arrangements to restrict the treatment which you might receive in such circumstances. There are two means of doing this.
You can make an “Advance Directive” (also known as a Living Will), which allows you whilst you are able to make an advance decision to refuse certain types of treatment such as life sustaining treatment should the need arise in the future at a time when you are unable communicate your wishes. The main benefit of using an Advance Decision is that it provides your clinicians with legal instructions about treatment which you do not wish to receive. It is also quick, as the directive takes effect as soon as you have signed it. However, it is a slightly inflexible and limited solution, as it can only be used to refuse treatment. You have to be clear about the nature of the treatment, and the circumstances in which you are refusing it, and you should think about whether your views would change if treatment options were to change in the future.
The second option is to appoint an Attorney or Attorneys under a Lasting Power of Attorney (‘LPA’) for Health and Welfare. This gives your Attorney(s) the power to make health and welfare decisions for you when you are unable to do so yourself. This can give them authority to make relatively trivial decisions on your behalf, such as helping you with your GP, but can also give authority to make much more important decisions, such as whether to allow you to continue receiving life saving treatment. This is a more flexible option than an advance directive, as your Attorneys can make decisions about what treatment you receive, as well as what treatment is refused; they can also take into account any changes in your views and circumstances, and any improvements in medical treatments since the time when you appointed them as your Attorneys. However, as your Attorneys will have the power to make very important decisions on your behalf, it is vital to ensure that you are completely confident that they would make these decisions on your behalf in the way that you would expect them to. Lasting Powers of Attorney must be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian before they can be used, and this process can take two or three months. Therefore this option may be less attractive if you expect that decisions will need to be made within that timescale.
We would be pleased to assist in considering the advantages and disadvantages for you of the various options. Jordans Solicitors are recognised as a Dementia Friendly firm with many of our staff being Dementia Friends. We can also assist with other issues such as Wills or dealing with probate issues after death. We are on hand to help with any queries you may have. Our wills and probate solicitors are based in Wakefield, Dewsbury, and Horsforth. Feel free to call us on 0330 300 1103 or request a call back.