A Matter of Life and Death……..some Future Planning

A Matter of Life and Death……..some Future Planning

Article written by David Maxwell, Senior Associate Private client lawyer


There has been much debate in the press and elsewhere recently concerning end of life care and euthanasia.

The dividing line between the two is, in fact, often blurred and the pain-relieving but potentially life-shortening quality of morphine administered by doctors is a well-known example.

Whilst surveys have shown that the majority of lay-people in the UK support euthanasia, the medical profession’s representative bodies tend not to do so, largely on the basis that it is, on the face of it, inconsistent with the Hippocratic Oath.

Nevertheless, when a dying patient wishes to decline further treatment, physicians are duty-bound to respect that wish.

Most people would presumably agree that this is fair enough. However, a problem arises when patients are so acutely ill that they are unable to express their wishes and have not done so in advance.

In that, not uncommon, instance doctors are obliged to administer life-sustaining treatments which can, of course, lead to prolonged end of life suffering.

For this reason we would always urge our clients young and old to consider putting in place an “Advance Medical Directive” or “Living Will”, and lodging a copy with their GP as well as with a close relative or friend.

An Advance Medical Directive can be tailored to your own beliefs and wishes and provides a clear written record of your instructions which is legally binding on the doctors treating you.

If you would like to discuss the putting in place of an Advance Medical Directive please contact David Maxwell [email protected] or Glen Bayliss [email protected] or you can reach either on 020 7408 8888.