Today marks the beginning of Dying Matters Awareness Week, which this year has the theme of ‘you only die once’. Dying Matters aims to get people talking about the end of life so that they prepare for the best possible death.
One of the main focuses of this year’s campaign is to tell your loved ones your wishes. Setting out your wishes in advance can relieve distress and confusion for loved ones and help ensure that a patient has a better death. Compassion in Dying provides free Advance Decisions which enable patients to set out what treatment they would or would not want in the event that they lose capacity. Talking to your friends and family is a good way to begin this process but it is vital your wishes are recorded in a legally binding document. You can also appoint one of your close friends or family members to become a Lasting Power of Attorney who can then make decisions on your behalf if you are incapable of communicating your wishes at the time.
Dying Matters has found that only 6% of the public have written down plans for their future care if they lose capacity, echoing a survey by Compassion in Dying last year which found that only 4% of people had made an Advance Decision. This is troubling when the same poll found that 82% of the public have strong feelings on what treatment they would want at the end of life. However since the beginning of 2014 there has been a 27% increase in contact for Compassion in Dying’s services, as well as a 38% increase in downloading of Advance Decision forms. This shows that the public are beginning to engage more with their end of life rights.
We look forward to a week where everyone is talking about how to have a good death and for people to take the necessary steps to safeguard their wishes.
Compassion in Dying is a national charity (no. 1120203) that aims to support people at the end of life to have what they consider to be a good death by providing information and support around their legal rights and choices. We are a leading provider of free Advance Decisions in the UK and we also conduct and review research around patient rights and choices in end-of-life care.
Compassion in Dying is the sister organisation of Dignity in Dying and was set up to help people exercise their rights and choices under the current law.
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life including the option of assisted dying for terminally ill, mentally competent adults within strict legal safeguards. Dignity in Dying has over 25,000 supporters and receives its funding entirely from donations from the public.
The End-of-Life Rights Information Line is available on freephone 0800 999 2434, or by emailing or writing to
Compassion in Dying
181 Oxford Street
The phone-line is open between 11am and 3pm Monday to Friday.
An Advance Decision is a document that allows individuals to set out their wishes and preferences for medical treatment in advance, in the event that they become unable to communicate with their health team (for example, if they fall into a coma or develop dementia). Advance Decisions were given statutory force under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (in October 2007), meaning the refusal of treatment is legally binding. The Compassion in Dying Advance Decision is fully compliant with the Mental Capacity Act.
A Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that gives one or more trusted persons the legal power to make decisions about your health and welfare if you lose the capacity to do so yourself. An LPA cannot be used until it is registered with the Office of the Public Guardian. LPAscan make decisions for you when you lack the mental capacity to do so yourself, including the withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment.