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Can making a will help me make sure I die in dignity if, for example, I am on life support or in a coma?

Your will only takes effect when you die so you cannot use it to say what happens before then. You can indicate your wishes to your family, and to doctors and other medical staff treating you, by making an ‘advance decision’ (commonly known as a living will). This sets out which treatments you do not consent to — resuscitation, blood transfusions and so on — if you are not in a position to communicate your wishes at the time.

You cannot use an advance decision to:

  • Require someone to end your life (euthanasia) or to help you end it yourself (suicide).
  • Refuse consent to being given food and drink, painkillers or basic care (for example, to maintain personal hygiene).
  • Insist on certain treatments — it is the doctors who decide on treatments, and you either consent to them or not.

If you make an advance decision you should give your doctor a copy, ask for it to be added to your medical record, carry a card saying it exists and give copies to family members likely to be contacted in an emergency.

Ask a solicitor to help you draft an advance decision. It must be very precise and is not legally binding unless the formalities are complied with. If you already have a health and welfare lasting power of attorney, you need to be sure they are consistent.

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