An adult aged over 18 has the right to make decisions about their own healthcare. You can choose what treatment you are willing to have. You can also decide what treatment you do not want.

But what if you are unable to make decisions about your healthcare as the result of illness or accident? This is what Living Wills are for. In England and Wales, the law calls them “Advance Decisions” (Section 24(1) Mental Capacity Act 2005). They are also sometimes referred to as Advance Directives.

Often, making a Living Will is the result of concerns over being forced to receive life sustaining treatment after the hope of making a recovery with a personally acceptable quality of life has been lost. But there are other reasons. However, it is not the same as assisted suicide which remains unlawful.

Making a Living Will should be discussed with family, friends and healthcare professionals. It can be helpful for them to know what you would want to happen at a difficult time.

Alternatively, you could apply for a Lasting Power of Attorney (Health and Welfare) in favour of someone you trust, who knows your wishes and who could then make important decisions for you if and when the time came to do so.

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