Should I make an Advance Decision (Living Will)?

clasping hand of ill person hospital hospice

None of us likes to face the prospect of becoming incapable due to age or illness, and be unable to make decisions about our medical treatment and care. An Advance Decision, also known as a Living Will, (especially in in Scotland) is a written document that allows you to retain control when the time comes. You must be over 18 and have mental capacity, to create one.

What does an Advance Decision cover?

The Advance Decision needs to specify exactly what treatment is to be refused. For example, if you want to refuse life-sustaining medication, such as antibiotics, this must be spelled out in the document, and you must sign the document, and get it witnessed by someone independent, for it to be valid. It is not permissible for you to refuse basic nursing care, or to request for your death to be brought forward by drugs. Euthanasia or assisted dying is illegal.

An Advance Decision can only deal with refusal of specified medical treatment. It does not allow anyone else to make decisions on your behalf (for this you would need a Lasting Power of Attorney), nor can it require medical teams give you specific treatment.

Will anything affect my Advance Decision being implemented?

If you do something later that is deemed inconsistent with the Advance Decision, it may not be implemented. Similarly, if medical staff believe you would alter the decision if you had anticipated the circumstances, then, again, the Advance Decision may not be implemented.

Seek advice

If you have any doubts or questions about these important and difficult decisions, you can discuss them with your advisor.

Heledd Wyn TEP is Associate Director, Head of Long-Term & Elderly Care, at Gregg Latchams Ltd, Bristol.


An article of this kind can never provide a complete guide to the law in these areas, which may be subject to change from time to time. The opinions and suggestions made within this article should not be interpreted as specific advice in relation to any particular individual or individuals. Neither STEP, the article author or their firm accept responsibility for any loss occasioned by someone acting or refraining to act on the basis of the opinions and suggestions contained in this article. More