is the difference between a Living Will and an LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney)?
There is some confusion surrounding the meaning and
purpose of a Living Will and a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and
The key difference is that a Living Will is a record
of a decision you have made yourself, for use if you later lose mental
capacity, whereas a Lasting Power of Attorney appoints someone else to make
those decisions for you if mental capacity is lost.
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a statement in which you refuse
specific medical treatment. This is in case you have lost mental capacity at
the relevant time. It is important to understand that it cannot be used to
request particular types of treatment; it can only be used to refuse treatment.
A Living Will is a legally binding document as long as
it complies with certain requirements.
The document must give details of exactly what
treatment the patient wants to refuse and explain in what circumstances it
should apply. It is also useful to give reasons for the decision, for example
If you wish to refuse life sustaining treatment then
your Living Will must be in writing and signed by you in front of a witness. It
must also contain a specific statement which says that your Living Will applies
even when your life is at risk.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Health
An LPA for Health and Welfare allows a person to
appoint attorneys to make decisions regarding their health and welfare when
they no longer have the mental capacity to make such decisions themselves. These
decisions can include decisions regarding the sort of healthcare you require,
moving to a residential care home, as well as day-to-day issues such as your
diet and dress. There is also an option for you to give your attorney(s) the
authority to consent or to refuse life sustaining treatment.
The LPA document does allow you to include guidance,
restrictions and conditions regarding the decisions that the attorney(s) make.
Do I need both an Advance Decision and an LPA?
It is important to note that if you if you make an LPA
giving someone the right to consent or refuse life sustaining treatment this
will override any previous Advance Decision that you have made. If you create a
Living Will after the LPA then this will overrule the LPA.
It is important to consider carefully what it is you
want to achieve in creating any of the above documents and how much discretion
you want your family and medical professionals to have. It is possible to have
both a Living Will and an LPA for Health and Welfare, but there should be no
conflict between the two documents. If you have clear feelings about what
treatment you would like to refuse and in what circumstances treatment,
including life sustaining treatment, is to be refused then a Living Will is the
best way to record your wishes. If you want to appoint a particular person to
make decisions about your day to day welfare and care then an LPA is the best
place to do this. If you already have a Living Will then you should not give
the attorney power to consent to life sustaining treatment on your behalf.
Both documents allow you to have a say over how you
should be treated once you no longer have the mental capacity to make those
decisions yourself. Creating such documents provides guidance to relatives as
to your wishes and can help to prevent family disputes over treatment or care