By Caroline Browne, Partner
The Advance Healthcare Decisions Bill was published in January 2012. The Bill provides for the introduction of ‘Living Wills’ described as Advance Healthcare Directives which allow a person over 18 years of age to set out the level of medical treatment they wish to receive in the event that they become terminally ill or incapacitated and not in a position to commnicate their wishes. On the 8th June 2012 the Bill was debated in the Dail and passed to the second stage. It has not as yet been brought into law.
A living will would not become effective if a person is in a position to communicate and make their own decisions.
When a family member is terminally ill decisions in relation to the level of care can cause heartache and stress for the family, particularly when agreement cannot be reached. Due to advances in medicine and the ability to prolong life significantly this is becoming more of an issue. Living wills give the final say to a person in relation to their own care.
During the Dail debate an issue was raised as to whether a living will would interfere with the ability of medical professionals to make decisions. Perhaps it would be beneficial for medical professionals to have access to the living will of a seriously ill patient as it would allow them to have a clear understanding of the patient’s wishes in respect of the medical care sought, or not sought as the case may be, in cirumctances where the patient is unable to communicate his or her wishes.
A living will would only be used in a situation where a person is terminally ill. In a situation where you are not terminally ill an attorney could make decisions on your behalf if you have an Enduring Power of Attorney in place. An Enduring Power of Attorney gives someone else the authority to make care decisions on your behalf.
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Why make a Will