Misconceptions about future health and welfare decisions placing people at risk

Posted 10/07/2018

62% of people living in the East of England incorrectly believe that their next of kin could make their medical and care decisions on their behalf – should they no longer be able to do so.

A study produced by Solicitors for the Elderly and the Centre for Future Studies has highlighted a clear disparity between people’s perception of how their health and medical care would be managed and the reality should they not have made a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).

At present, less than 3% of people surveyed in the East of England have a Health and Welfare LPA in place, meaning the remaining 97% would have no choice about the medical decisions made on their behalf should they no longer be able to make them. In fact, there are only 928,000 Health & Welfare LPAs registered with the Office of Public Guardian compared to over 12.8 million people in the UK aged over 65, who are at a higher risk of developing conditions such as dementia.

The majority of people surveyed (70%) expressed that should they no longer be able to make decisions relating to medical care themselves, they would like their family to be able to make the decisions on their behalf. Although 77% of people in the East of England have not discussed their future medical or care wishes with their family members, placing them at risk of not receiving the health and welfare care that they would like.

Despite common misconceptions, the only way to ensure that family and loved ones are able to make these key decisions is to have a Health and Welfare LPA in place. Without this, doctors and medical professionals would be responsible for key decisions with or without the consent of any spouse or relatives. Any disputes would have to be referred to the Court of Protection which can take time to reach a resolution.

What is a Lasting Power of Attorney?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document in which appointed attorneys, chosen by the donor, are able to make key decisions should that person no longer be able to. There are two types of LPA: health and welfare and property and financial affairs. This means it is possible to appoint different attorneys for the two types of LPA, although both sets would have to consult each other should one decision impact the other.

Without a Health and Welfare LPA in place, family members are unable to make key decisions regarding all elements of a person’s medical care e.g. the right to consent or refuse life sustaining treatment.

To find out further information, or to draw up your own Health and Welfare LPA please contact our expert team of Private Client Lawyers some of whom are Solicitor for the Elderly accredited, on 01376 320456 (Essex) or 01787 275275 (Suffolk).

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