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What can an Advance Directive be used for?

You can use an Advance Directive to refuse any medical treatment including life-sustaining treatment.

Life-sustaining treatment may include:

  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops
  • being put on a ventilator if you cannot breathe on your own
  • being given food or fluids artificially, for example through a drip, a tube through the nose or through a tube directly into the stomach
  • antibiotics for a life-threatening infection

Is an Advance Directive legally binding?

If you live in Scotland and lack capacity, the law that says how you will be treated is called the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000. This Act says that when making a decision about a medical treatment, the healthcare professional must take into account the past and present wishes of the person. Because an Advance Directive is evidence of a person’s wishes it should therefore be taken into account when a decision is made on the person’s behalf.

In England and Wales, Advance Decisions (Living Wills) that meet certain requirements must be followed. This isn’t the case in Scotland, but Advance Directives are still widely recognised and used by healthcare professionals.

If a decision ever had to be made in court, it’s likely that the Scottish courts would take the same approach as England and Wales and say that a clear and specific Advance Directive should be followed.