Your care, Your choice?

Who makes decisions about our care and treatment if we are unable to make those decisions for ourselves? Your spouse? Your children?

Prior to 2007 it was usual for healthcare professionals and social services to consult with someone's next of kin. Decisions would be made in that persons "best interests". But who is the best person to decide on your best interests?

Since 2007 it has been possible to make a Lasting Power of Attorney in respect of (i) Property and Finances and (ii) Health and Welfare. The Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (H&WLPA) allows you to appoint a person of your choice (your "Attorney") who can later make decisions about your care, treatment, staying in your own home, moving into residential care, your diet and even life sustaining treatment, if you cannot make those decisions for yourself. This incapacity could be due to an accident, stroke, dementia or other reason.

The medical profession are there, of course, to preserve life. Having a H&WLPA means that your Attorney(s) can relay your instructions/wishes without having to delve into the "best interests" debate with the medical profession or social services.

In a real life example, a man (who was no longer able to make decisions for himself) was admitted to hospital and his wife later found him bruised and witnessed him being mistreated by hospital staff. The hospital refused to speak to his wife about his "care" because she did not have authority without a registered H&WLPA. In a similar scenario, a husband was advised that he could not make decisions about his wife's final care and treatment when she was terminally ill because he did not have a H&WLPA; the consultant advised that the final decision would lie with him and not the husband. These are only a couple of examples and there are many similar cases with regard to resuscitation, moving someone into a hospice to see out their final days, which care home is best and whether someone can stay at home.

If you want your wishes about your care and medical treatment to be carried out after incapacity and you want your family to have a 'trump card' when it comes to your care, then you ought to make a H&WLPA. The best person to know who should make decisions for you is you.

If you would like to learn more please contact your nearest MCP office or a member of our Wills & Probate team direct to arrange an appointment to discuss these sometimes difficult matters in quiet and confidential surroundings.