The 2016 case of Paul Briggs is a heart-wrenching example highlighting the significance of making sure your wishes and feelings are formally recorded before it becomes too late. Sadly, Paul Briggs was involved in a traffic incident which has left him unconscious and in a permanent vegetative state.
Paul was unable to communicate his wishes and feelings and as he hadn't got the necessary legal documents in place, his family were not able to make decisions on his behalf. This meant that Paul's family had to make an application to the Court of Protection to challenge the doctor's decision to keep Paul on life support. (Click here to read the full article on this case).
The recent BBC article relating to Bradley Visser's case highlights the peace of mind that a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare can provide to family members who are presented with the anguishing task of making a decision regarding a loved one's life sustaining treatment. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-oxfordshire-50424600)
Bradley suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a personal injury. As Bradley had executed a Lasting Power of Attorney in favour of his wife, Annie, she was able to make the decision to switch off Bradley's life support machine as Bradley had given clear instructions and guidance stipulating when he should and should not be kept alive.
The Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare allowed Annie to make this decision on behalf of Bradley without feeling extreme guilt. It is often the case, if someone has not made a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, that their family are unaware of their wishes and feelings in circumstances such as these. Without this document there is no one who has the legal authority to make decisions relating to your wellbeing and so the medical professionals involved in your care will make decisions relating to life sustaining treatment, however they will also be unaware of what you would have wanted. More distress may be caused if family members do not agree with the medical professionals, as their only option will be to make an application to the Court of Protection to challenge the decision.
Annie described the Lasting Power of Attorney as 'a document with far more importance than a will'. As Bradley's Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare provided his wishes and feelings, Annie was able to feel sure in the decisions she was making as she had background knowledge on what Bradley wanted in the circumstances, saying 'I feel like I have Brad stood next to me'.
The reassurance that the Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare provided her allowed her to be strong for her and her children and she is now wanting to spread the word on the importance of this legal document.
At Clapham & Collinge we want to join Annie in highlighting the importance of getting your legal documents in place, not only for your own peace of mind, but also for your loved ones.
What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a document which gives someone the authority to act on your behalf when it comes to important decisions.
There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney:
- Property and Financial Affairs
This document gives your attorney the authority to deal with your property, bank accounts, investments, utility companies and any other finances. This document can be used as soon as it has been registered and regardless of whether you have lost capacity. Your attorney can make decisions on your behalf, provided the decision is in your best interests, for example deciding to sell your property to pay for care fees or change where an investment is held to ensure a higher return.
- Health and Welfare
This document gives your attorney the authority to make decisions regarding your day-to-day medical and care needs, your care/residential home and life sustaining treatment. This document can only be used once you have lost capacity so if you have not made a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare by this point, these decisions will be left to the medical professionals involved in your care. This is often a point of contention as your family/friends may have differing opinions to the professionals when it comes to these decisions.
Why is a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney important?
Lasting Powers of Attorney act as an insurance policy in a way – you hope you will never need to use them, but they are there just in case and so provide peace of mind that your wishes will be taken into consideration when you are unable to make certain decisions.
A Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney is especially important as you never know what is round the corner, and whilst many of us do not anticipate being in a life-changing accident, it can happen. It is important to talk to the person you want to make important decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity and to let them know what you would like to happen when it comes to key decisions.
At Clapham & Collinge we have a team of expert lawyers who provide advice and assistance in the preparation of your Lasting Powers of Attorney to make sure they are right for you and reflect your wishes. We also register the documents as soon as they are prepared to ensure that they can be used straight away if needed.
For more information on Lasting Powers of Attorney, please visit our dedicated Lasting Powers of Attorney webpage.
To find out more or to discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our Lasting Powers of Attorney specialists are on hand to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.