Living wills, also known as advance directives, are a written record of the medical treatment and care you would want to receive if you were incapacitated and were unable to make decisions or communicate your wishes.
The case of M illustrates the advantage of having a living will.
In September 2011, the Court of Protection ruled in the case of M that withdrawing life support treatment from a person in a minimally conscious state was not in that person’s best interests.
M had sustained brain damage in early 2003. It was thought that she was in a persistent vegetative state but doctors later concluded that she was in a minimally conscious state. Her family had applied for life sustaining treatment to be withdrawn on the grounds that ‘M’ had no quality of life.
The Judge indicated that if M had left a living will or advance directive stating that she did not wish to receive life sustaining treatment then the Court would have agreed to the request from M’s family for treatment to be withdrawn. However, as there was no written record of M’s wishes, the treatment must continue.
Such tragic cases serve as a reminder of the need to draw up living wills. An alternative procedure is to appoint a friend or relative to act as your attorney under a lasting power of attorney for health and welfare.