Olivia Storey, Solicitor in our Wills, Trusts and Estate Administration department explores the options available when planning for your future, in regards to any medical treatment. Below she looks into the differences between a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) and a Living Will.
A lot of emphasis is placed upon the importance of planning for loss of capacity in the context of financial matters, but it is equally important to plan ahead in respect of your health and any future decisions that may need to be taken on your behalf concerning your medical treatment. So what options are currently available?
You could consider making a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA). This enables you to formally appoint one or more individuals (known as your ‘Attorney(s)’) to make health and welfare based decisions on your behalf. The LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it can be used, and it only takes effect if you have lost capacity to make the decision yourself. This is in contrast to the Property and Financial Affairs LPA, which can be used by your Attorneys even whilst you still have mental capacity.
A particular feature of the Health and Welfare LPA is that you can grant your Attorneys formal authority to give (or indeed refuse) medical treatment on your behalf if you wish to. In essence, the LPA allows you to delegate a broad range of decisions to your Attorneys. By contrast, medical practitioners have a duty to consult with any Attorney who is appointed under a Health and Welfare LPA and can challenge an Attorney’s decision only in very limited circumstances (and with Court of Protection approval).
It is also possible to make an Advance Decision, otherwise known as a ‘Living Will’ or ‘Advance Directive’. This allows you to specify your wishes regarding medical treatment that you may require in the future, including treatment that you do not wish to receive in certain prescribed circumstances. In effect, therefore, the decision about what treatment you receive (or do not receive) is set out in advance as opposed to being determined at the relevant time as would be the case under a Health and Welfare LPA. There are no formal registration requirements for an Advance Decision.
It should be borne in mind that medical professionals involved in your care must follow your Advance Decision, if it is relevant and applicable in the circumstances even if they do not consider it to be in your best interests or if it conflicts with the views of your family.
Due to the varying scope and effect of these documents, it is advisable to explore the options fully and to take advice before deciding which option is most suited to your circumstances.