The current coronavirus pandemic raises many questions regarding our health and end of life care. Not least, will doctors follow my medical wishes if I became unwell?

Earlier this month, a GP surgery in South Wales came under fire for asking all of its patients with serious health conditions to a complete do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order. The DNR means that a doctor will not attempt to resuscitate a patient if their heart stops. Although the surgery received strong criticism, this practice may become commonplace as the pandemic continues.

Although an uncomfortable topic for many, thinking and planning for what could occur in the future will give you control when it happens.

If you want to protect your health care wishes, there are two routes available to you:

  1. An advance decision
  2. A lasting power of attorney (LPA) for health and welfare

What is an advance decision?

An advance decision (or an advance decision to refuse treatment), allows you to record any medical treatments that you don’t want to be given in the future, in case you later become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself. Previously advance decisions were known as “Living Wills”.

An advance decision is valid as soon as it’s signed and witnessed so is quick to put in place.

What is an LPA for health and wellbeing?

An LPA for health and wellbeing allows you to assign someone you trust (the “Attorney”) the power to act on your behalf regarding your medical treatment and care. Should you become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself, your attorney will do that for you. So, you must discuss your wishes with your attorney so they can honour your choices when the time comes.

The LPA must be registered with the Office of the Public Guardian before it’s required. The process usually takes around eight weeks to complete.

Advance decision or LPA?

Advance decisions provide an immediate solution, whereas an LPA is appropriate for the longer-term.

Although different in their execution, both share common characteristics:

  • They’re only an option if you’re over 18 years of age and have mental capacity.
  • They’re legally binding documents in England and Wales.
  • They will only come into play if, at some time in the future, you’re not able to make your own decisions about your treatment.
  • They can be cancelled or amended at any time while you have mental capacity.

What next?

Both advance decisions and LPAs are legal documents, so you will need specialist assistance to set either of them up.

If you’re considering one of these options, we offer a free initial 30-minute discussion where we can talk you through the process.

If you’d like to go ahead, we can take care of the documentation and process for you. When the documents are ready, we’ll arrange to witness you sign the documents either at your home or at our business premises while fully complying with the government guidelines on social distancing.

If you have any questions on legally protecting your health care wishes, please call us on 01404 515427 or email us at