It is a prospect some patients prefer not to think about. Others like to plan ahead and decide what they would like to happen if dementia or a life-threatening accident or illness makes it impossible for them to manage their own affairs.
Your GP will be glad to discuss the matter with you and inform the relevant agencies to take account of your wishes when the time comes. But before you make any decisions it is important to discuss things with those nearest and dearest to you so they are aware and understand.
A living will is a statement expressing your views on how you would or would not like to be treated if you are unable to make decisions about your treatment yourself in the future.
The term ‘living will’ doesn’t have a legal meaning but usually refers to either an advance decision or an advance statement.
An advance statement can explain your likes and dislikes and include anything that is important for you to be comfortable. It allows you to say how you would like to be looked after and cared for and will be used if you ever lose the ability to make or communicate your own decisions.
Advance statements must be considered by the people providing your treatment when they determine what is in your best interests, but they are not legally bound to follow your wishes.
An advance decision to refuse treatment (ADRT) allows you to specify what medical treatments you would not want to receive. It is legally binding, as long as it fulfils certain requirements. This means that doctors and other medical professionals must follow it.
An ADRT must indicate exactly what type of treatment you wish to refuse and should give as much detail as necessary about the circumstances under which this refusal would apply.
It will only be used if you lose the capacity to make or communicate decisions about your treatment, e.g. if you have advanced dementia or are unconscious.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is tried on everybody whose heart and breathing stop, if there is a chance it will work, and if the person has not refused CPR.
However, if people are already very seriously ill and near the end of their life, there may be no benefit in trying to revive them. This is particularly true when people have other things wrong with them.
When CPR is attempted in hospital it is successful in 10 – 15% of cases, of these a smaller proportion will survive long enough to be discharged from hospital. In non-acute areas such as community hospitals and public places current survival is less than 5%. All of the above figures are dependent on the patients’ underlying medical conditions, and illnesses such as cancer and heart disease will reduce the chance of survival further.
If you think you might not want CPR please discuss this with your GP, who will talk it through with you and explain the system to alert emergency health staff of your decision.
We wish to reassure you that if it is decided that CPR won’t be attempted this will not affect any other aspect of you care. Your healthcare team will continue to give you the best possible care.
A lasting power of attorney (LPA) is a legal document that lets you appoint one or more people to help you make decisions or make decisions on your behalf.
You can choose to make one type or both.
This gives you more control over what happens to you if, for example, you have an accident or an illness and can’t make decisions at the time they need to be made.
You must be 18 or over and have mental capacity when you make your LPA.
Transplants are one of the most miraculous achievements of modern medicine, but they depend on the generosity of donors and their families who are willing to make this life-saving or life-enhancing gift to others. One donor can save the life of several people, restore the sight of two others and improve the quality of life of many more.
Some believe that there is an age limit on becoming an organ donor, but this is a myth. Organs are successfully transplanted from people in their 70s and 80s, and the oldest cornea donor recorded was 104 years old. There are very few illnesses that prevent someone from donating their organs after death.
Some people choose to donate their bodies, or body parts, to medical schools.
Human bodies are used to teach students about the structure of the body and how it works; they may also be used to train surgeons and other healthcare professionals. People decide in advance to donate their body after their death. These donations are highly valued by staff and students at anatomy establishments.
Bereavement is the time we spend adjusting to loss. It is a distressing but common experience. There is no standard time limit and there is no right or wrong way to feel during the bereavement period – everyone must learn to cope in their own way.
Grief, although normal, can manifest in a huge range of unexpected ways. Some people get angry, some people withdraw further into themselves and some people become completely numb. It is not just one feeling, but a whole succession of feelings, which take a while to get through and which cannot be hurried. If you are having trouble with bereavement we are very happy to see you for advice and support.
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