The unfortunate case of Brenda Grant, aged 81, who was kept alive for almost two years against her wishes after her hospital misplaced her Living Will, has highlighted the importance of ensuring family members and doctors are fully informed of your wishes.
Brenda’s Living Will instructed doctors not to ‘prolong her life’ if she was unlikely to recover from illness or impairment involving severe distress or incapacity for rational existence. This was the case in 2012 when she suffered a catastrophic stroke which left her unable to walk, talk or swallow.
However the hospital misplaced her document, and since Brenda had not told family members about her Living Will, she was kept alive for 22 months through feeding tubes and a stomach peg.
It’s important to be open
As well as talking openly with family members regarding your wishes in the event of illness and incapacity, we also advise you to consider making a Health & Welfare LPA.
Unlike a Living Will, an LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) offers additional safeguards that could prevent information about your wishes from being lost or overlooked:
“An LPA needs to be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it becomes active, thereby recording it on a national register. It is then possible for family members and doctors to search this register to find out if you have one. “
There is no central register of Living Wills, also known as an Advance Decision, therefore if your family, GP or hospital does not know of your wishes or happens to lose the document, as in Mrs Grant’s case, there may be no way to communicate your instructions.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
An LPA is a legal document that appoints an ‘attorney’ to make any decision about your health and welfare in the event that you become mentally incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.
This includes decisions on where you live and how you are cared for, as well as decisions about medical treatment and whether to refuse life-sustaining treatment.
To make an LPA you need to choose one or more people to be your attorney, in addition to a ‘certificate provider’, who must check the form to prove that you understand what you are doing (for example a GP or a solicitor), and a witness.
You can then choose up to five people to be notified when the LPA is registered.
For more information on Lasting Powers of Attorney for your health and welfare, visit https://www.burnettbarker.co.uk or pop into our office at 20 Whiting Street, Bury St Edmunds – we have free parking on site.
We have also created a free downloadable LPA Factsheet which includes frequently asked questions and information on our Fixed Fee LPA Service which starts at £225+VAT.