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Living Will

A living will is a legal document that a person uses to make known his or her wishes regarding life prolonging medical treatments. It can also be referred to as an advance directive, health care directive, or a physician's directive. A living will should not be confused with a living trust, which is a mechanism for holding and distributing a person's assets to avoid probate. It is important to have a living will as it informs your health care providers and your family about your desires for medical treatment in the event you are not able to speak for yourself.


A general written statement (sometimes called an 'advance statement') can set out which treatments you feel you would or wouldn't like to receive should you lose mental capacity in the future.


Advance statements aren't legally binding, but health professionals do have to take them into account when deciding on a course of action. Family and friends can also use them as evidence of your wishes.


You could also make your views known verbally, for example, when discussing treatment with a health care professional, but having it written down may make things clearer for everyone.


Your statement could include:

1.         treatment you would be happy to have, and in what circumstances

2.         treatment you would want, no matter how ill you are

3.         treatment you would prefer not to have, and in what circumstances

4.         someone you would like to be consulted about your treatment at the time a decision needs to be made


It can also include a specific refusal of treatment, which has a different legal status.


If writing an advance statement, bear in mind that new drugs or treatments may be introduced in the future. So you could, for example, state that you would prefer not to receive certain current treatments but would allow for new treatments.


Include your name, address, date and signature in the advance statement. It's also advisable to say you understand what you're doing and are capable of making such decisions. And you may want to get the statement signed by a witness who can say that you had capacity at the time.

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