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Living Wills – what are they and why are they important?

There has been recent press coverage of the case involving the family of an 81-year-old woman who received £45,000 in compensation from the NHS, after she was kept alive against her wishes.

Mrs Brenda Grant had made an advance directive, or “living will”, as it’s also known. An advance directive is a legally binding document. The document enables a person to set out their wishes regarding personal health care and how they would like to be treated, should they lose capacity to make the decisions by their own accord.

Mrs Grant’s advance directive stated that if she was no longer of sound mind or had suffered from any of the medical ailments that were listed, then she should not receive treatment or be artificially fed to prolong her life.

Unfortunately the hospital had not discovered the document. It was hidden within a thick bundle of medical documents and none of the family knew about it either. As a result, she spent almost three months receiving care in hospital and had a stomach peg fitted so that she could be fed directly. All of which was against her wishes.

Eventually, a GP alerted hospital medics to the existence of her advance directive. Mrs Grant’s wishes were finally followed and her life-support tubes were removed.

Whether it’s an advance directive, a will or any other legal document, the unfortunate scenario of Mrs Grant portrays how important it is to inform family, loved ones and people close to you of its existence.

If the family knew about the document, this situation could have been avoided. An alternative solution could have also been if Mrs Grant had prepared a health and welfare power of attorney.

Expressing her wishes in a power of attorney would have meant that her chosen attorneys would be able to act on behalf of Mrs Grant in carrying out her wishes. The benefit of making a power of attorney is that the attorneys would be aware of its existence as they would have signed it.

If you would like more information about making an advance directive or lasting powers of attorney and how they could be beneficial to you, please contact Maria Cosslett today.

Call: 029 2022 4433

Maria Cosslett is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, a member of the Society of Trust and Estates Practitioners (STEP) and an accredited member of Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).

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