Will the doctor have to follow my advance decision or advance statement?

This page describes the criteria for advance decisions to be legally binding.

Will the doctor have to follow my advance statement?

An advance statement – unlike an advance decision – is not legally binding. This means doctors and medical professionals do not have to follow it. However, doctors, nurses and all other health and social care professionals should take an advance statement into account when making decisions about your care and treatment. This means they should try to follow it where possible, and if they do not, it must be because they have a good reason.

Will the doctor have to follow my advance decision?

Advance decisions, when they meet certain criteria, are legally binding. This means all medical professionals, including doctors, have to follow them. This is only true when your advance decision is both ‘valid’ and ‘applicable’.

  • Valid – In order to be valid, an advance decision must have been made at a time when you were capable of making the decision. This is referred to as having ‘mental capacity’. For more information see Mental Capacity Act 2005.
  • Applicable – In order for the advance decision to be applicable, the wording has to be specific and relevant to the medical circumstances. This means you have to choose what you say carefully. If the advance decision is vague or if it isn’t clear that it refers to a particular medical condition, treatment or practice, the doctor may not have to (or be able to) follow it.

The advance decision must also:

  • have been made when you were 18 or over
  • not have been made under pressure from other people
  • if it relates to refusing life-saving treatment, be written down, be signed and witnessed and include a statement that it applies even if your life is at risk.
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