'Living wills' system to be reformed

Vulnerable people could be given the power to veto future medical treatments under plans by the Government to reform the system of "living wills" announced yesterday

Vulnerable people could be given the power to veto future medical treatments under plans by the Government to reform the system of "living wills" announced yesterday

The plans are expected to have an enormous impact on people suffering from with Alzheimer's, schizophrenics and those with learning difficulties, accounting for millions of people in Britain.

Lord Filkin, a Constitutional Affairs minister, said the aim was to help people facing the inability to make their own decisions through disability or dementia to take control of their own future.

Lord Filkin visited the Nottingham branch of the Alzheimer's Society to talk to people with dementia and their carers before making the announcement about the Mental Incapacity Bill, which is due to be introduced to Parliament before the summer recess. The move was immediately welcomed by campaigners.

Lord Filkin said: "Our proposals will allow people to plan ahead for a time when they might lose capacity, giving people a much-needed element of control over their future medical treatment.

"When faced with a degenerative condition such as Alzheimer's, this can provide reassurance and a sense of empowerment in the face of difficult and distressing circumstances.

"We don't want advance decisions to be vague, or to be pieces of paper that are not revisited for many years. Nor do we want to put doctors in an unfair and uncertain position."

Concern, the Alzheimer's Society and Mind, which campaign for people suffering mental illness, said the Bill would benefit the lives of millions of people, including those with dementia, learning disabilities, mental health problems, autism and severe head injuries.

Richard Kramer, co-chairman of the Making Decisions Alliance, said: "We are glad the Government has recognised the need to ensure core principles of empowering people, including the presumption of capacity and supporting people to make decisions, are at the heart of the Bill."

The Government stressed the Bill would not change the law on euthanasia and it would remain unlawful to take a person's life.

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