The 67-year-old man, known as XB during the hearing, suffered from motor neurone disease for several years. In November 2011, he communicated to family members using eye movements that artificial feeding and ventilation should be stopped under certain circumstances.

This advance decision, or living will, was made in the presence of several witnesses including family members, a doctor, a social worker and a carer.

The carer later questioned whether the document had been properly recorded. There was also an issue as to whether the man had intended that his advance decision should expire on 2nd May this year.

In the first ruling of this kind, the Court of Protection held that the man’s decision as expressed in the living will was valid and was not subject to a time limi
t. His family can now decide when life saving treatment should cease.

However, when giving her decision, Mrs Justice Theis stressed the need for living wills to contain clear and unambiguous language.

Advance decisions, which can be expressed in living wills or Lasting Power of Attorney documents, offer a way for people to state how they should be treated if they lose capacity at some point in the future.

However, as Mrs Justice Theis pointed out, they are extremely important and sensitive documents, and have to be drawn up properly if they are to be effective and accepted by the courts.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article, or any matters relating to advance decisions and the Court of Protection.

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