Posted on 3rd February 2017

Ken Barlow's Plight Highlights the Importance of Living Wills and Health and Welfare Lasting Powers of Attorney

Natalie Palmer, Director at Latimer Hinks Solicitors
Natalie Palmer, Director at Latimer Hinks Solicitors

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