As lawyers, we are continually striving to educate the public on the importance of having Lasting Powers of Attorney in place. This legal document gives authority for others to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to.
The 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, a husband and father to a young daughter, was involved in a traffic incident. This has left him unconscious for the past 17 months and in a permanent vegetative state. Paul is unable to make decisions himself or communicate his wishes and feelings.
As reported in the Telegraph, Paul's wife has described his condition as "much worse than if he had died at the scene". She explains that she,
"…never knew that states worse than death existed until this happened to Paul."
She goes on to explain the torture the family are experiencing witnessing Paul in his current condition. Reportedly Paul, "Would not have wanted to carry on being kept alive purely on life support."
Unfortunately for Paul and his family, it seems no formal instructions were recorded to confirm what he would want to happen in a horrific situation like this. His family, therefore have no legal power to refuse life sustaining treatment on his behalf to allow him to pass away peacefully. They are in the process of challenging the doctors' decision to keep Paul on life support through the Court of Protection. This will enviably be a long and stressful process for the family who are already dealing with so much grief.
How could this situation have been different? If Paul had made a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health & Welfare matters, the application to the Court of Protection may not have been necessary.
A Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney can give nominated people the power to consent or refuse life sustaining treatment on your behalf. This means that a person you trust can take into account your personal wishes and feelings and make this incredibly important decision on your behalf. It also covers wider situations, for example arranging for your care and your day to day welfare needs.
It can be tempting for people to view a Lasting Power of Attorney simply as a tool to plan for mental or physical incapacity in later life. However, this document could be of significant value for many of us who find ourselves in a similar situation to Paul and his family.
To find out more or discuss your individual requirements in further detail, our dedicated Wills, Trusts and Probate lawyers are available to help. Contact us today on 01603 693500 or email us using the 'Make an enquiry' form. Appointments available at our Norwich, North Walsham, Brooke and Sheringham offices.