The right to refuse treatment

Share

The concept of a "living will" will probably seem strange to many people. A will divides up your estate when you die - not something most people would want to come into effect while they are still alive. But it makes more sense when you consider the case of someone afflicted with a degenerative mental disease, who will one day lose the ability to manage their affairs. A living will allows them to appoint someone - perhaps a partner or relative - to make financial decisions on their behalf.

The concept of a "living will" will probably seem strange to many people. A will divides up your estate when you die - not something most people would want to come into effect while they are still alive. But it makes more sense when you consider the case of someone afflicted with a degenerative mental disease, who will one day lose the ability to manage their affairs. A living will allows them to appoint someone - perhaps a partner or relative - to make financial decisions on their behalf.

Yesterday, in a welcome move, the Government published a bill to extend the scope of living wills, allowing appointees to refuse medical treatment on behalf of an incapacitated person. The seriously ill will now have the power to state that they should be allowed to die under certain circumstances.

Some will be appalled by the idea of people signing their lives away. Others will argue this is a way of legalising euthanasia by the back door. But these objections ignore the fact that any patient has a right to refuse treatment. Any individual who knows he or she will one day lose the capacity to communicate effectively should be able to set down their wishes about what treatment they receive in advance, rather than have the choice made for them by doctors later. And if they choose not to receive treatment, something that may result in their death, we should respect that choice.

It also makes sense from the point of view of the medical profession. As things stand, doctors must agonise over whether to withhold treatment would be to break their Hippocratic oath to "do no harm". How much more bearable would their duty be if they had clear instructions from the patient? And for relatives, knowing what their loved one wants would substantially ease their burden too.

So this is not euthanasia by the back door but a method of ensuring a patient's wishes are carried out. It is in the interests of all concerned. But that is not to say our laws prohibiting euthanasia do not need to be reformed too. This bill is a step forward in allowing people to die with dignity, but the Government must now turn its attention to legalising euthanasia for people in extreme suffering and who are able to communicate a clear desire to end their life.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone