6. 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’.
- 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 over 18 and fully informed about the consequences of refusing treatment, including the fact that it may hasten death
- not have been made under the influence of other people
- be written down and be signed and witnessed (if it relates to refusing life-saving treatment).