Many years ago I listened to a program on Radio 4 about a young woman who sailed the world, often solo, but had suffered a serious head injury whilst on her yacht. This head injury meant that she would no longer enjoy the life of adventure that she had previously due to what would be life changing disabilities. Her family argued to have her life support turned off so that she could pass away peacefully without regaining consciousness. This was refused. The program was highlighting the importance of having Advance Decision forms drawn up so that our end of life wishes are respected. There are many medical interventions we could experience to prolong our lives but if we lack mental capacity to reject them they may be forced upon us.
The Mental Capacity Act 2005 introduced Advance Decisions into statutory law – we used to know them as ‘Living Wills’. They now have more authority under the law and everyone should consider setting one up.
Of course if you have appointed an attorney on a Lasting Power of Attorney form for Health, and stipulated in Section 5 that your attorney/s can make end of life decisions for you, you will want to have a conversation with them about your wishes. A Jehovas Witness, for example, may be scheduled for major surgery – in the event that they require a blood transfusion their attorney may not grant this on the basis of the patient’s beliefs. Some people feel strongly that they would not want to be resuscitated after a certain age as there is little guarantee of a high quality of life following such an invasive procedure. All of us are individuals with our own beliefs, experiences, and ideas about how we want to spend our last days.
These are not cheery conversations to have nor happy topics to dwell on but they are important to consider as ‘nothing is certain but death and taxes’. It can also greatly assist families and healthcare professionals faced with difficult questions if the patient themselves has stipulated their wishes in the appropriate document. Here is a link to further information and a template you can use to help you get started:
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