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29th April 2020

Advance Directive or Health & Welfare LPA?

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What is the best option for you in a time of Coronavirus? These unprecedented and challenging times have acted as a timely prompt for many of us to think afresh about our wishes regarding our healthcare, and the medical treatment we want to receive if we become seriously ill.

Many of us, to take just one example, have strong feelings about the course of action we would like to be taken (or not taken), if we became incapacitated. Topics like this can often feel difficult or unpleasant to talk about, and obviously the hope will always be that such a situation would never arise. There is however great peace of mind and security to be gained, in knowing that we have taken steps to ensure that our wishes are respected and will be followed in the event of a worst case scenario, and that we have done everything we can to make things as straightforward as possible for our loved ones in what would inevitably be a very stressful and emotional time for them.

This is where Advance Directives can come in. These are sometimes also referred to as “Advance Decisions” or “Living Wills”. An Advance Directive allows you to set out your choices about the type of treatment you would want to receive if certain unfortunate circumstances arise, for example if you were to fall into a coma or were to become mentally incapacitated. If you can no longer communicate your wishes, an Advance Directive can ensure that you do not lose your right to choose for yourself what healthcare you will receive and that you will not be given any treatments that you would not have wanted.

In normal times many people decide to put in place Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney, appointing trusted attorneys to make health and welfare decisions on their behalf if they lose capacity. These Powers of Attorney still remain a very useful and important option and we are helping clients to put these in place, working round the restrictions which the lockdown has imposed on all of us. In the current climate, however, some people may have great problems getting such Powers of Attorney signed up (and witnessed and confirmed by a certificate provider as required by law). Also, Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney can only be use once they are registered by the Office of the Public Guardian and given the current Covid-19 restrictions significant delays are anticipated in the registration of Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney. Given these obstacles, the speed and flexibility with which an Advance Directive can be prepared and completed, arguably make them a useful option. Once signed and witnessed, an Advance Directive will be immediately valid and legally binding on healthcare professionals (to the extent that your directions do not violate any laws or accepted standards of medical practice). That said whilst you still have capacity and can express your wishes the existence of the Advance Directive will not restrict your own active decision-making powers in any way and you will be free to change your mind about your treatment choices.

In these extraordinary and uncertain times, Hewitsons is here to provide you and your family with the support and expert guidance you need to navigate these uncharted waters and to help you manage and safeguard your affairs. To receive specialist advice on Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives or any other matter, please contact one of our Private Wealth Solicitors who will be happy to assist you.

For more information please contact a member of our Private Wealth team.