Advance healthcare directives

If you are planning ahead, you can make an advance healthcare directive. This arrangement lets you set out your wishes regarding medical and healthcare treatment in case you are unable to make these decisions in the future. Importantly, it lets you write down any treatment you do not want.

You can appoint someone you know and trust as your designated healthcare representative. They will act on your behalf regarding the decisions in your advance healthcare directive. A designated healthcare representative has the power to advise on and interpret your wishes. They can agree to, or refuse treatment on your behalf, based on your advance healthcare directive. 

Doctors and other healthcare professionals must consult your advance healthcare directive if you lose the ability to make a treatment decision. 

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Making an advance healthcare directive

An advance healthcare directive must be made in writing and signed by you, two witnesses, and by your designated healthcare representative, if you decide to have one.

You can write down any treatments you wish to refuse and the circumstances in which this should apply.

You can include requests for specific treatments. Requests for treatments are not legally binding. However, by including them you can make sure they are considered during any related decision-making process.

You can read more about making an advance healthcare directive in our guidance material, which can be found in our Resources section.

How do I find out if someone has an advance healthcare directive?

You do not have to tell anyone when you have made an advance healthcare directive.

However, we recommend you provide a copy of your advance healthcare directive to your doctor and any other healthcare professional who may provide you with treatment.

Healthcare professionals must check if you have an advance healthcare directive if you lack the capacity to make a treatment decision.

Monitoring an advance healthcare directive

If you lose the capacity to make certain healthcare and treatment decisions, and have a designated healthcare representative, they must make a record of any decision made that relates to your advance healthcare directive. They must do this as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the decision has been made.

If you regain capacity, your designated healthcare representative must provide a copy of this record to you. We can also request a copy of this record.

We can send someone to talk to you or your designated healthcare representative. For example, we can send a general visitor or special visitor if we receive a complaint about your designated healthcare representative, or want to check that the agreement is working the way that it should.

Ending an advance healthcare directive

You can cancel your advance healthcare directive at any time if you have the capacity to do so. An advance healthcare directive must be cancelled in writing. Cancelling your advance healthcare directive is called revoking the arrangement.

Changing an advance healthcare directive

You can change your advance healthcare directive if you have capacity to do so. Any change to your advance healthcare directive must be made in writing, signed by you, two witnesses, and by your designated healthcare representative, if you have one. Changing your advance healthcare directive is called varying the arrangement.

It can be a good idea to review and update your advance healthcare directive regularly so that it reflects your wishes. You should also review and update it following any major medical treatment or diagnoses to ensure it reflects your medical history.

What does it cost?

It does not cost anything to make, change or end an advance healthcare directive.