Leading judge wants ‘living wills’ to be made compulsory
Published: 28 November 2017
One of Britain’s leading judges has called for living wills to be made compulsory to prevent disputes about the kind of medical treatment offered to patients who are unconscious or unable to make their feelings known.
A living will, also known as an advance decision, enables
you to write down how you wish to be cared for if you fall ill at some point in
the future. This could involve the medicine you are prepared to accept or even
whether you want to refuse treatment in certain circumstances.
Mr Justice Francis said living wills would help to prevent
disputes and reduce stress for patients and their families. He made the
comments while presiding over a case involving an elderly patient suffering
from a condition that has left him in a minimal conscious state.
The man’s family disagreed with hospital staff over the kind
of treatment he should be given. The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust applied to
the Court of Protection, which adjudicates on issues involving vulnerable
people, for a ruling to resolve the issue.
At the hearing, Mr Justice Francis said: "It should be
compulsory that we all have to make living wills because these cases would be
resolved much more easily. We all ought to be encouraged to tackle these
If there was some sort of campaign to educate people about these sort of things, I think people would actually do something about it."
Living wills are often drawn up at the same time as Lasting
Powers of Attorney (LPA). These are legal documents that allow you to nominate
someone you trust to be your representative or ‘attorney’ to make decisions on
your behalf if you ever lose mental capacity at some time in the future.
They are overseen by the Office of the Public Guardian and the Court of Protection to ensure they can’t be abused.
The property and finance LPA
allows you to appoint someone to look after your financial affairs and the
personal welfare LPA lets you grant an attorney authority over such matters as
health care and the kind of treatment you receive.
If you don’t have an LPA, your family may have to go through complicated court procedures
to be granted authority to manage your affairs. If your family disagree with
the kind of treatment you’re being given by hospital staff, as in this case,
they or the NHS may have to apply to the Court of Protection to resolve the
That can create extra stress and
expense for your loved ones at a time when they are already worried about you.
Thousands of people set up LPAs every year to ensure that
their interests and wishes will be respected if the worst comes to the worst at
some point in the future.
Please contact Claire Trueman or Rosalind Burton in our Private Client Team if you would like more
information about Living Wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney.