About Advance Decisions
An Advance Decision is a legal document that allows healthcare professionals to follow your wishes for treatment, even if you are unable to communicate with them directly. Compassion in Dying's free Advance Decision is fully compliant with the Mental Capacity Act so there is no need for a solicitor - all you have to do is fill it in.
Call our free Information Line on 0800 999 2434 for more information about making an Advance Decision.
Setting out your wishes in writing
You can use an Advance Decision to set out the treatment you would and would not want at the end of life. This enables healthcare professionals to know what your wishes are even if you could not tell them yourself, e.g. if you had severe dementia or were in a coma.
It is a good idea to make an Advance Decision because:
- It helps you to think about what treatment you would want if you couldn’t make or communicate medical decisions
- It can help you to talk to your loved ones about what you would want, so they know your wishes
- Your GP will keep your Advance Decision with your notes, so other healthcare professionals will know how you want to be treated.
Advance Decisions work well if they apply to your specific circumstances at the end of life, so it is a good idea to try to complete it in as much detail as you can. Speak to your GP or contact us if you would like to talk to someone about this.
If you would prefer something more flexible, you might find that a health and personal welfare Lasting Power of Attorney suits you better. Click here to read our factsheet on the differences, to help you decide which is right for you.
Are Advance Decisions legally binding?
The refusal of treatment is legally binding with an Advance Decision. You can refuse any treatment, including life-sustaining treatment (i.e. resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration, or breathing machines).
You can also use an Advance Decision to ask for treatment, although this is not legally binding. However, it is still a good idea to put the treatments you want to ask for in your Advance Decision so that healthcare professionals know about them. They will try to follow your wishes if they can.
How do you make an Advance Decision?
- Compassion in Dying provides free Advance Decision forms that do not require a solicitor.
- Think about the treatments you would and would not want. Your GP can help with this and you may find our useful questions for making an Advance Decision.
- Speak to your partner, family and other loved ones about your wishes so that they are fully informed about what you want. You can check their understanding of what you have told them with our quiz.
- Make an appointment to speak to your doctor about your Advance Decision, if you have not done so already. As well as advising you about the kinds of treatment you may wish to include, they can also sign the GP declaration to witness your mental capacity. If you have any problems when taking your Advance Decision to your doctor, please contact us.
- When you have filled in your Advance Decision, you must sign and date it, and ask someone to witness your signature. Make sure your Advance Decision is legally binding.
Can you change your mind?
You can change your Advance Decision at any time if you change your mind about what you want. There is more information about making changes or updating your Advance Decision here.
If you have mental capacity, you can also override your Advance Decision verbally at any time.
How will people know about your Advance Decision?
It is important that your loved ones and the healthcare professionals treating you at the end of life know about your Advance Decision. There are a few things you can do to make sure people know about your Advance Decision.
- Ask your doctor to keep a copy of your Advance Decision with your medical records.
- Carry the ‘Notice of Advance Decision’ card (which comes with our Advance Decision) or keep a copy of your Advance Decision on your person.
- Give a copy of your Advance Decision to someone you know who could be contacted in an emergency. There is space to put their name and telephone number on the ‘Notice of Advance Decision’ card.
- Give a copy of your Advance Decision to everyone else who is regularly involved in your care. For example, a consultant, health visitor or local hospital.
- Keep a copy of your Advance Decision yourself and make sure other people know where it is. If you have made photocopies of your Advance Decision, make sure you keep the original.
Compassion in Dying is now working in partnership with the MedicAlert Foundation to help people to promote the fact that they have an Advance Decision.
MedicAlert is a membership organisation that provides medical identification bracelets and pendants which can record the fact that you have an Advance Decision and communicate it to healthcare professionals in an emergency.
Visit MedicAlert or call 0800 581 420 and quote Compassion in Dying to join MedicAlert.