Do I need a Living Will as well as a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Posted: Wednesday, 3 November 2021 @ 15:14

A Living Will, also referred to as an Advance Decision, allows you to refuse certain medical treatment, should you become unable to make this decision in person at some point in the future.

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health and Welfare has a wider remit, appointing attorneys to act on your behalf to make decisions regarding your care and personal welfare as well as medical decisions.

Living Will or Advance Decision

A Living Will is a document that details your wish not to receive specified medical treatments in the future, should you lack the mental capacity to make this decision yourself at the time.

Examples of treatments that you could refuse include surgery, a blood transfusion and resuscitation.

Some care cannot be refused, including basic care that will keep you comfortable as well as food and drink given by  mouth.

You cannot ask for anything that is not lawful, such as euthanasia or help to take your own life. You cannot insist on a particular medical treatment; decisions as to what treatment you are offered will be taken by your medical practitioners. 

Lasting Power of Attorney

An LPA appoints someone to make decisions on your behalf in the future, should you ever lose the capacity to do this yourself.

There are two types of LPA, financial and health and wellbeing. The health and wellbeing LPA gives your attorney the power to decide on issues such as where you will live, who you will see, what you do on a day to day basis, including what you eat, and what medical care and treatment you are given.

Which should I choose, Living Will or LPA?

It is perfectly acceptable to have both a Living Will and an LPA, but it is important to understand the power each confers and which will take priority.  

With a Living Will, you have stated your own preferences for refusal of medical treatment. With the LPA, your trusted attorney will make those decisions for you, although you will have had the opportunity to make them aware of your wishes at the time of making the LPA.  

If both a Living Will and an LPA are drawn up, ideally you should make sure that you have not made conflicting requests.  

The document that was signed most recently is the one that will take priority if they both deal with an issue differently. For example, if you signed a Living Will and then later on put a health and welfare LPA in place, then your attorney, acting on the authority of the LPA, will dictate what treatments you are given or what treatments will be refused on your behalf.  

Making a Living Will or Advance Decision  

If you are thinking about putting a Living Will in place, you should speak to your doctor and medical team about the issues you are considering. They will be able to help explain the consequences of any decisions you are thinking of making.  

Wherever possible, you should also speak to your loved ones about your plans. This will help them deal with the situation and can avoid them feeling that they have to challenge a decision that is being made on your behalf in the future.

From Sue Ioannou, Chair & Head of Training