By Juliet Phillips-James, Director, Gomer Williams (as featured in the Llanelli Star)
Q: I am 79. I have a huge fear that I could become ill with a debilitating illness and I am concerned that doctors will keep me alive when I am in such a physical condition that I would prefer to be allowed to die.I have heard that I could make a living will to have an element of control as to my medical treatment in the future should I be unable for any reason to communicate my wishes and feelings.Could you advise me as to what control over my future medical care a living will could allow me?
A: You can indeed make a living will to decide your future medical treatment
The formal name for it is 'advanced decision'. Generally doctors have a duty to act in your best interest, except however, where you have made an 'advanced decision'. This allows you to indicate that you wish to refuse certain types of medical treatment in certain situations.
The doctors are obliged to respect the decisions within this document, whether or not they think it in your best interests.
You should discuss your decision to make an advanced decision with your GP, family and friends so all are aware of your views. A copy should be kept with your medical records.
Alternatively, if you have someone you can trust implicitly, you could make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, appointing them as attorney with power to decide when you should have life sustaining treatment or not.
You can cancel your 'advanced decision' at anytime while you have mental capacity.
To ensure that you are fully aware of the implications of the advanced decision and to ensure it is properly drawn up and executed and that you have the facts it is recommended you seek both medical and legal advice beforehand.