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Proper planning to ensure future wishes

A legal expert is warning of the importance of properly planning for the future following recent revelations regarding ‘do not resuscitate’ orders imposed on dying patients without families’ knowledge.

Kathryn Harwood, head of Wills & Estate Planning at Napthens solicitors, points to research from the Royal College of Physicians which audited 9,000 dying patients, finding that one in five families were not informed that hospitals were not planning to attempt resuscitation.

Kathryn warns that this shows the importance of leaving clear instructions to avoid family arguments and to ensure personal wishes are carried out, when planning for ill health or end-of-life treatment.

She said: “While do not resuscitate orders are likely to be a medical decision, and not up to family members, in these circumstances they can come as a shock to the family members if they are unaware.

“This has highlighted the issue of healthcare decisions and planning to make sure wishes are carried out if a person is unable to make decisions for themselves.

“For instance, Lasting Powers of Attorney can go some way to involving trusted family members or friends in making decisions about medical care and treatment, with a letter of wishes used to make decisions and wishes of a more personal nature.

“There has been a significant backlash over this news, and this has shown the importance of involving seriously ill patients and their families every step of the way. Making the right plans for the future can go a long way towards ensuring your wishes are carried out at a time when this may be difficult.”