Skip to content
Please donate

Advance decisions (living wills)

What should I think about when making an advance decision?

Think carefully about whether there are any treatments you would not want to receive in certain situations.

You should discuss your advance decision with a healthcare professional who knows your medical history and the risks and benefits of refusing certain treatments. You may also want to discuss it with your family and friends so that they understand your wishes.

An advance decision to refuse treatment:

  • must be clear about the circumstances under which you would not want to receive the specified treatment
  • should specify whether you want to receive the specific treatment, even if this could lead to your death
  • can’t be used to request certain treatment
  • can’t be used to ask for your life to be ended.

How do I make an advance decision?

An advance decision does not need to be in writing unless you are refusing potentially life-sustaining treatment. However, it is good practice to write it down and give a copy to your loved ones and all involved in your care. Your GP and medical team must know about your advance decision so they can include it in your medical notes. You should review it regularly, and can change it at any time. You must make sure that you clearly communicate and record these changes, being sure to date and sign it.

If you want to refuse potentially life-sustaining treatment your decision must be in writing, signed, witnessed, and include the statement ‘even if life is at risk as a result.’

What is an advance statement?

An advance statement of wishes explains your likes and dislikes and anything that is important for you to be comfortable. An advance statement should be considered by all those involved your care. Unlike an advance decision, it's not legally binding.

You might like to include information on:

  • where ideally you would like to be cared for, for example your home, a care home or hospice
  • your dietary requirements
  • foods you do and don’t like
  • whether you prefer baths or showers
  • what kind of clothes you prefer to wear
  • the type of music you like and what you like to watch on TV
  • whether you like to sleep with a light on
  • the time you like to go to bed and whether you’re an early riser or prefer a lie in
  • your religious or other beliefs and values
  • who you want to be consulted about your care
  • who you would like to visit you.

You can record your advance statement in any way it works for you. However it is a important to give a copy of your advance statement to all those involved in your care – especially your care staff, GP and medical team so that they know your wishes.

Age NI Advice Service

Every year our Advice Service deals with thousands of calls from older people in need. Call us today to make sure that you are receiving all the help and support available to you.

Call freephone 0808 808 7575
Monday - Friday 9am – 5pm 


Last updated: May 13 2021

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top