Attracting news headlines is the recent English case of an 81 year old woman who suffered a catastrophic stroke and was kept alive via a feeding tube.
It was only some 22 months later that the doctors paid attention to her Advance Directive. This clearly stated her wishes against having her life prolonged in these circumstances. Her artificial feeding was brought to an end and she died several days later.
Her family received £45,000 compensation in an out of court settlement as her life was sustained against her will.
What stretches to 1 or 2 sides of A4 really can be the difference between life and death. Sometimes known as a Living Will, an Advance Directive allows you to set out your wishes as to how you want to be treated if you become seriously ill and cannot make decisions for yourself.
In some situations, Advance Directives can include a statement that you do not want to have your life prolonged in the event of a serious medical condition.
In Scotland, Advance Directives are not legally binding (unlike in England and Wales) but they are deemed highly persuasive. Doctors are likely to take your wishes into account if they are set out formally and will often give them due consideration. In addition, if you have appointed a Welfare Attorney or have a Welfare Guardian appointed by the court, such people empowered to make decisions on your behalf are obliged to consider your wishes (e.g. as recorded in an Advance Directive).
In the recent English case, the woman in question did not make her relatives aware of the Advance Directive and it was hidden in a bundle of her medical papers. It was only when her GP raised this that it was brought to everyone’s attention.
It is important that you seek legal advice before signing an Advance Directive. Once it has been drafted in accordance with your specific wishes, you should let close family members or friends, together with your GP, aware of its existence.
If you would like to implement an Advance Directive or find out more, our team would be delighted to assist.