Advance Decisions

What is an Advance Decision?

“A Decision made by someone after reaching the age of 18 and when they have the capacity to do so, stating what specific treatment they refuse (or would like to be discontinued) if, at the material time they were lacking the capacity to make that decision for themselves”.

Advance Decisions are legally binding documents that allow you to specify your wishes about your healthcare should you become very ill.

When you are ill, you can usually discuss treatment options with your doctor and then jointly reach a decision about your future care.

However, you may be admitted to hospital when unconscious, and you may be unable on a temporary or permanent basis to make your own decisions about your treatment or communicate your wishes.

This may happen, for example, if you have a car accident, a stroke or develop dementia. To use the legal term – you would ‘lack mental capacity’ to make an informed decision and/or communicate your wishes. In such situations, doctors have a legal and ethical obligation to act in your best interests.

One exception to this is if you have made an advance decision refusing treatment. If this decision is valid and applicable to the circumstances, medical professionals providing your care are bound to follow it – whether or not they think it is in your best interests.

Why should I consider writing an Advance Decision?

  • Freedom of choice – you can make the decisions now for yourself, whilst you can still can.
  • Religious beliefs – Maybe your religion prevents certain types of medical treatment, such as being given a blood transplant.
  • Saving your loved ones from making heartbreaking decisions – If you make these important choices now, your loved ones won’t have to.