What is an Advance Decision (‘Living Will’)?

An Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment allows you to record any medical treatments that you do not want to be given in the future, in case you later become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself. It can only be used if you cannot make or communicate a decision for yourself. It is commonly shortened to Advance Decision, and was previously known as a Living Will.

Advance Decisions are legally binding in England and Wales, as long as they meet certain requirements. This means that if a healthcare professional knows you have made an Advance Decision, they have to follow it. If they ignore an Advance Decision and provide treatment that you have refused then they could be taken to court.

You can use an Advance Decision to refuse any treatment, including life-sustaining treatment such as resuscitation, artificial nutrition and hydration, or breathing machines.

You cannot use an Advance Decision to:
  • request or demand particular treatments
  • ask for anything illegal, such as assistance to end your life
  • refuse basic care that keeps you clean and comfortable
  • appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf (choosing another person to make decisions about your health and care is done by making a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare).