Latimer Hinks is urging people to consider seeking legal advice to ensure their medical wishes are respected, as highlighted by a current soap opera storyline.
In a recent episode, Coronation Street stalwart Ken Barlow, who has previously suffered a stroke on the programme, confided in his family that he had made a decision to create a Living Will, also known as an Advance Decision, with a do not resuscitate (DNR) order, meaning that if he has another stroke and his heart stops, medics are not allowed to revive him.
A Living Will is a written statement detailing a person's desires regarding any future medical treatment in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express informed consent, such as the loss of mental capacity following a stroke, or through dementia.
When his family questioned his decision, Ken said ‘I don’t want to live if I can’t live as me, with a cognitive grasp of who that me is and the physical ability to live my life’, a sentiment that Natalie Palmer a Director at Latimer Hinks Solicitors, a Dementia Champion, regional co-ordinator for Solicitors for the Elderly and a trustee for Age UK Darlington, believes will strike a chord with many people.
She said: “I think many people will understand Ken’s decision to create a living will with a do not resuscitate order, and his reasons for doing so. For people with physical and mental health conditions, particularly degenerative ones, it’s important to make a Living Will whilst they have full capacity to do so. That way their wishes will be respected, should they end up in a position where they are unable to express themselves fully.
“For Ken, and many people living in a similar situation, a living will provides a sense of comfort and helps remove some of the anxiety they may feel over their future”
An alternative is a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), which allows a person to appoint someone to make medical decisions on their behalf by ensuring that the person’s wishes are carried out.
Whilst a LPA, once registered with the authorities, is permanent, a Living Will must be reviewed and updated annually to ensure that it is still valid, and may be overruled if they are able to confirm a condition developed after the Living Will was drawn up.
Natalie added: “Of course, a Living Will isn’t suitable for everyone and, like many legal decisions, has positive and negative implications. For some people a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney may be the best route and deciding which is best is entirely down to the individual, but I would always recommend that someone with a life-limiting illness or degenerative condition considers the best way to ensure their best interests are served.”
Latimer Hinks, on Priestgate, Darlington, is able to offer a full Wills and Probate service, including Living Wills. Call to book an appointment with a solicitor 01325 341500