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Charity Campaigners welcome proposals for Living Wills

Issue date: 22 April 2004

A broad coalition of 30 charities today welcomed the planned improvements to ‘living wills' from Department of Constitutional Affairs Minister Lord Filkin. The plans are part of the long-awaited Mental Capacity Bill which is set to give millions of people more control over their day to day lives.

The Bill allows people to write advance directives (sometimes known as living wills) setting out specific medical treatments that they wish to refuse in specific circumstances should they lose the capacity to make or communicate decisions - through dementia, mental ill health or a head injury for example. The Making Decisions Alliance (MDA) which includes charities from across the range of areas affected by the Bill has welcomed the proposals, but urged the Government to go further.

"These proposals will give people far greater control of their lives and the treatment they receive and they also set out some important safeguards to make sure they truly reflect the individual's wishes," said Richard Kramer, co-chair of the MDA.

"However, we would also like legislation to recognise people's right to make advance statements setting out what they want to happen should they lose capacity, including what medical treatment they would want. We think these should have the same legal status as advanced refusals of treatment. It's also important to note that these proposals and the Bill as a whole do not affect the law on Euthanasia."

Euthanasia is illegal and will remain so under the Bill. If anything, the MDA argues that the new legislation will protect the rights of individuals and prevent many cases of abuse or ill-treatment. In the cases where individuals are unable to make decisions - those who have suffered head injuries for example - it allows family or care partners to have more say in how those people are treated.

The current lack of legislation means there's still a gap in the law around those who find it difficult to make or communicate decisions. People are being left vulnerable and unsupported to make decisions for themselves. Carers are unsure of their rights to be consulted on the treatment the people they care for receive. Legislation will mean that individuals have the legal right to make decisions for themselves.

ENDS

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Notes to Editors

Minister announces improvements to living wills News Release from the Department of Constitutional Affairs, 22 April 2004.

For further information contact David Chater on 07786 938 601

Member organisations of the Making Decisions Alliance are:

Action on Elder Abuse, Age Concern England, Alzheimer's Society, Caring Matters, The Centre for Policy on Ageing, The Down's Syndrome Association, Headway, Help the Aged, Leonard Cheshire, Mencap, The Mental Health Foundation, Mind, The National Autistic Society, Patient Concern, The Relatives and Residents Association, Respond, Rethink, Scope, Sense, The Stroke Association, Turning Point, United Response, Kent Autistic Trust, Counsel and Care, Addavoice and POPAN.

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The information on this page was provided by members of the Making Decisions Alliance. It was last updated on2 March 2004.

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This website is run on behalf of the Making Decisions Alliance by the Mental Health Foundation / Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities, 9th Floor, Sea Containers House, 20 Upper Ground, London SE1 9QB. Tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1100. Press office tel: +44 (0)20 7803 1281. Email: mhf@mhf.org.uk Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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