If you need any medical or social care, and you have good mental capacity to understand and make decisions, you will be able to accept or refuse treatment. However, if you no longer have mental capacity, ie., you have dementia or are unconscious, you probably assume that your loved ones, your next of kin, make these decisions for you? In fact, that’s not the case. It’s the doctors and social services who decide for you, unless you have set up in advance, a document to legally name someone else to make decisions on your behalf, such as a Lasting Power of Attorney.
A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health & Welfare is a legal document that is separate from the LPA for Financial, Property & Legal matters. This documents will enable you (the donor) to give legal authority to one or several people who you choose and trust (usually family members) to be involved and make decisions on your behalf when you are not in a position to do so yourself because you no longer have mentally capacity. These people who are appointed to help are called Attorneys.
It deals with all matters related to health & welfare, including daily routine, medical care, moving into a care homes, social services, etc. This LPA only be used once the person has lost mental capacity. This includes giving authority to your attorneys to give or refuse consent to life-sustaining treatment on your behalf. Decisions about life-staining treatment can be needed in unexpected circumstances, such as a routine operation that didn’t go as planned. This means care, surgery, medicine or other help from doctors that’s needed to keep you alive. The type of life-sustaining treatment depends on the situation. eg., if you had pneumonia, a simple course of antibiotics could be life-sustaining.
Note: Deciding to refuse a treatment is not the same as asking someone to end your life or to help you end your life. Euthanasia and assisted suicide are illegal under English law.
Even when someone has been diagnosed with a deteriorating illness, such as dementia, if they are in the very early stages, they may still have enough capacity to make a LPA. However, the best recommendation is to make a LPA when the Donor still has full mental and physical capacity.
What about an Living Will / Advanced Decision
An advance decision (sometimes known as an advance decision to refuse treatment, or a living will) is a decision you can make now to refuse a specific type of treatment at some time in the future. The treatments you are deciding to refuse must all be named in the advance decision. You may want to refuse a treatment in some situations, but not others. If this is the case, you need to be clear about all the circumstances in which you want to refuse this treatment.
APS can offer full advice and preparation of Lasting Power of Attorney or Advanced Decision documents. Call now for an appointment to discuss.