We are often asked - what is a Living Will?
- a statement expressing your views about how you would like to be treated in the future
- a Will of sorts but applies whilst you are alive not after your death
- essentially an expression of your wishes set out in advance of illness at a time when you have the mental capacity to understand the issues involved and provide clear directions
- used to outline circumstances in which you would like medical treatment withheld e.g. if you suffer from a debilitating illness or condition
If you have a Power of Attorney in place, this may provide some guidance for your Attorneys. However, it is unlikely to cover the situations envisaged by a Living Will, which ensures your doctor and family are aware of your wishes.
What should you consider?
- it is important to seek legal advice and to consult with your GP and family
- doctors have to act in the best interests of their patients and if you have clearly outlined your wishes, that can be taken into consideration, together with your medical notes
- legal papers should reflect your attitude to ill health and disabilities to guide those who are involved in your future care
- people have greater life expectancies due to medical advancements and the prospects of living a long, meaningful life are better than they have ever been
What lies ahead?
There are moral and legal issues surrounding Living Wills. That being said, public opinion appears to be moving towards individuals having a greater say in how they should be treated (i.e. having treatment withheld if they wish) especially in the later stages of life and, indeed, on matters of assisted dying. The Scottish Parliament is likely to revisit this issue in the coming years with nearly 3 in 4 Scots in favour of permitting assisted dying.
When reviewing an individual's affairs, we always ask them to consider how they would feel about their lives in a variety of circumstances; from severe coma through various degrees of mental and physical incapacity and ill health. Their wishes are then recorded in a Living Will, making it a highly personal and individual document, tailored to each individual's wishes.
If you do not already have a Living Will and are considering having one in place, please contact our experienced team who would be happy to discuss your options.