Advance decision to refuse treatment (‘living will’)

What is it?

  • A legally binding document outlining what medical treatment a patient would not want in the future, if they lacked capacity.

What makes it legally binding?

  • Signed
  • Witnessed
  • It is not felt to have been signed under duress
  • There is no doubt about the patient’s state of mind at time of signing

Role of relatives

  • Relatives have no legal rights to rescind or modify a valid advance decision 


  • The patient cannot specify which treatments they would want, only those they would not want

Here’s some questions

How does an ‘advance statement’ differ from an ‘advance decision’?

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If a patient has a lasting power of attorney (LPA) and made an advance decision, which is taken into account preferentially if views on a treatment refusal are conflicting?

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