Comment

People should record their end of life wishes early

Compassion in Dying has developed a resource pack to help people record their end of life wishes.

Compassion in Dying has developed a resource pack to help people record their end of life wishes.

In the case of Briggs v Briggs [2016] EWCOP 53, Paul Briggss loved ones were coming to terms with the fact that a traffic collision had left him in a minimally conscious state. Then, they received a second blow when they realised that they had no say over whether life-prolonging treatment could be withdrawn, despite knowing he would not have wanted to be kept alive in this situation.

Acting in the best

...

Compassion in Dying has developed a resource pack to help people record their end of life wishes.


Knowing when to act in people’s best interests makes a big difference to their care. Picture: Getty Images

 

I specialise in working with individuals who have prolonged disorders of consciousness or dementia, helping to ensure that those who have lost capacity and can no longer speak for themselves can be heard.

In the case of Briggs v Briggs [2016] EWCOP 53, Paul Briggs’s loved ones were coming to terms with the fact that a traffic collision had left him in a minimally conscious state. Then, they received a second blow when they realised that they had no say over whether life-prolonging treatment could be withdrawn, despite knowing he would not have wanted to be kept alive in this situation.

Acting in the best interests

Family members have no automatic right to enforce loved one’s final wishes – it falls to doctors to make such decisions. But, although decision makers have a legal and moral duty to act in a person’s best interests, there is no guarantee that the decisions they make will be what the person would want.

The only option for families is to appeal to the Court of Protection, which is what Paul’s wife Lindsey did.

If individuals are supported to record their wishes for future treatment while they still can, these tragedies can been avoided. Patients do not have to leave these decisions up to others, but can record their wishes in advance decisions. If these are valid and applicable, they must be enacted.

Compassion in Dying, a charity championing end of life rights and choices, has launched an Advance Decision Pack. This guides users through different conditions that could result in a loss of capacity and allows them to state what treatment they may want to refuse. The pack also includes an advance statement in which people can record their values, beliefs and wishes about pain relief and organ donation.

What you can do to help

Nurses are already doing vital work to ensure patients feel in control and reassured. Incorporating conversations about future treatment wishes into nurses’ day-to-day interactions – perhaps by using this new pack – can support this process.

Empowering patients to record their future wishes allows them to get on with living now, reassured that they are more likely to get the end of life care that’s right for them.


About the author

Jakki Cowley

Jakki Cowley is co-founder and director of Empowerment Matters based in Merseyside, England

 

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