What is an advance statement?
An advance statement says how you would like to be looked after if you ever lose the ability to make and express your decisions. It should be considered by anyone who is involved in your care but it is not legally binding.
An advance statement might include information about:
- where you want to be cared for
- what food and drink you prefer
- whether you prefer baths or showers
- your beliefs and values
- what you enjoy doing - eg the type of music or TV programmes you like
- who you want to be consulted about your care
- who can visit you
It is a good idea to give a copy to your GP and your medical team so it can be kept with your medical notes. You might also want to discuss it with family or friends.
What is an advance decision?
An advance decision is a way to refuse treatment or care in certain circumstances if you are unable to make or communicate your decision. It is legally binding, which means that a doctor or health care professional must follow it.
You can use an advance decision to refuse any treatment, including life-sustaining treatment such as:
- artificial feeding
- mechanical ventilation to help you breathe
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to re-start your heart
It can’t be used to:
- refuse food or drink by mouth
- request particular treatments
- ask for your life to be ended
An advance decision will only be used if you lose the capacity to make or communicate your decisions, for example if you are unconscious or suffering from dementia.
How to make an advance decision
There is no official form for writing an advance decision and it doesn’t have to be in writing, unless you want to refuse potentially life-sustaining treatment.
It is important that you tell people that you have made an advance decision and it’s a good idea to discuss your wishes with a GP or health care professional. They can make sure you understand the implications of your decision and they can put it in your medical notes. Your GP or health care professional could also confirm that you have the mental capacity to make such an advance decision.
You can change an advance decision later if you want to, but make sure you record those changes and let people know.
If you want to refuse life-sustaining treatment, your advance decision must:
- be in writing
- be signed
- be witnessed by someone who isn’t your spouse, partner, civil partner or relative
- include the statement ‘even if life is at risk as a result’
You may want to discuss your decision with family or friends, but the final decision is up to you.
You can create an advance statement or advance decision with the help of the online tool My Decisions. Go to https://mydecisions.org.uk/