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Life and Death Decisions: "Die, my dear doctor? That's the last thing I shall do!"1

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This article examines the current state of English law in relation to advance directives, formerly referred to as "living wills." There has been much discussion about the wisdom of allowing patients to have the right to direct what should happen in the event of their future incapacity. The article seeks to illustrate that the law already allows for anticipatory decisions which must be adhered to by health care teams. The remaining uncertainties are focused on form and scope rather than on the validity of the general principle. Reference is made in particular to the Law Commission Report on Mental Incapacity, the British Medical Association Code of Practice on Advance Statements About Medical Treatment and the Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Medical Ethics which dealt with the right to withhold consent to treatment.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Law, University of Liverpool, PO Box 149, Liverpool, L69 3BX


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