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When should I review and update my Advance Decision (Living Will)?

It’s a good idea to review and update your Advance Decision (Living Will) regularly, even if your health is stable. If you lack capacity to make a decision and your Advance Decision was updated in the last two years, the healthcare professional treating you can be more confident that what you’ve said in your Advance Decision is still what you want.

If your Advance Decision includes a refusal of life-sustaining treatment then the healthcare professional treating you has to be sure that your Advance Decision is both valid and applicable.

An Advance Decision made a long time ago isn’t automatically invalid or inapplicable, but it may raise doubts as to whether or not it still reflects your wishes, which may in turn cause a healthcare professional to choose not to follow it.

An Advance Decision that’s regularly reviewed is more likely to be valid and applicable to the current circumstances, and so healthcare professionals can be more confident that they are following your wishes.

When should I review and/or update my Advance Decision (Living Will)?

It’s a good idea to review and/or update your Advance Decision if any of these situations apply to you:

  • You’ve been diagnosed with an illness or your health has changed.
  • You’re going into hospital for serious treatment or surgery.
  • New medical treatments have been developed for any illness that you have.
  • You’ve had a change in personal circumstances, for example, becoming pregnant.
  • You haven’t reviewed your Advance Decision for at least two years.
  • You have an old Living Will or an Advance Decision made before 2007.
  • You’ve moved house or changed doctor.
  • You’ve made a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare.
  • You’ve changed your mind about anything within your Advance Decision.

How do I update my Advance Decision (Living Will)?

You’ll need to read through the document and consider if it still reflects your wishes or if you’d like to make any changes.

If you’re happy with it and don’t want to make any changes:

  1. Sign and date your Advance Decision next to the phrase ‘I have reviewed this Advance Decision and confirm that it reflects my wishes.’ Compassion in Dying’s Advance Decision form has space on the front page to do this.
  2. Give updated versions to everyone who has a copy of your original Advance Decision, including your GP, and ask them to destroy the old copies.

If you want to make changes to your Advance Decision:

  1. If you’d like to change the decisions in your form then it’s a good idea to make a new one. If you make changes to the existing form, it could make it hard for others to read. Filling out a new form will ensure that your wishes are clear and easy to follow. You can use Compassion in Dying’s Advance Decision form or you can make one online at MyDecisions. If you don’t want to make a new one, then you need to add your signature and the date next to your changes.
  2. If your contact details change or you have a new GP, you can simply cross out the old information and write in any new details. You should sign and date the change. You don’t need to fill out a new form.
  3. If you want to include or amend a refusal of life-sustaining treatment, this change must be made in the presence of a witness. Your witness must then sign and date the document in front of you.
  4. Give updated versions to everyone who has a copy of your original Advance Decision, including your GP, and ask them to destroy the old copies.

Can I change my mind about my Advance Decision (Living Will)?

You can change your mind or cancel your Advance Decision at any time, as long as you have capacity to do so. If you want to make a change you should make a new form and give copies to the people close to you and anyone involved in your care (instructing them to destroy the old version). You can cancel your Advance Decision by destroying it (and any other copies you have made).

Remember that your Advance Decision will only come into effect when you lack capacity to make a decision about your treatment. So if you still have capacity to make decisions about medical treatment, your Advance Decision won’t apply.