What is an Advance Decision?

An Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (sometimes known as Advance Decision, Advance Directive or Living Will) is simply a decision to refuse specific treatment at some time in the future. For example, you may decide that if your condition suddenly worsens and your breathing stops, you don’t want people to try to bring you back to life (resuscitate you).

Or, that if you’re very ill and have an infection, you don’t want to be given antibiotics.

An Advance Decision can only be made by someone aged 18 who is able to make the decision (this is called having mental capacity). It must indicate exactly what treatment you want to refuse and in which situation. Demands to be given treatments or interventions can’t be included in an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment.

In England and Wales, an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment is legally binding. This means it must be followed by your healthcare team, provided they know about it. It must also meet certain criteria set out in the Mental Capacity Act (2005). Your healthcare team will be able to tell you more about this.

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