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Date: 24/11/2016

A Worcestershire lawyer who represents elderly people and their families has moved to set the record straight and reassure the public following confusing and misleading national press reports on “living wills”.

Stories appeared in two national newspapers in recent weeks claiming that living wills, which state a patient’s wish for food and other life support to be withdrawn, would need court approval before being acted upon. The Times and the Daily Mail both incorrectly reported that medical professionals would no longer be allowed to obey living wills without the case first going to court
However, Tracy Ashby, a partner with county law firm mfg Solicitors, said the reports had misinterpreted a legal ruling made by one of the country’s most senior judges, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division.
Ms Ashby said she is eager to set the record straight as she is concerned ill patients and their families may have been misinformed on the true legal position, risking disputes and further heartbreak at what would already be a very difficult time.
She said: “Nothing has changed so far as advance decisions or living wills are concerned. Living wills are covered by legislation dating back to 2005. What Sir James Munby has said has not differed from that at all.
“All he has stated is that if a “decision” is to be made about withholding food and drink from a patient who can no longer communicate, that decision should go to the court. However, someone who has made a living will has already made the decision for themselves and their doctors are legally obliged to obey that decision.
“Of course, if there is a dispute about a living will then that would go to court, as it should and as it always has. Living wills remain an option for someone to use to set out their wishes clearly should they lose the capacity to discuss their treatment.
“I felt it was important to speak out and help families understand what can be a complex legal position. Recent reports in the national press have been broadly incorrect so it’s vital people know their rights before it’s too late.”
For advice on living wills readers can contact Tracy Ashby at mfg Solicitors by emailing or calling 0845 55 55 321.