Usha Grieve, Director of Information and Partnerships at Compassion in Dying,

Usha Grieve, Director of Information and Partnerships at Compassion in Dying, explains how its new campaign, Make It Your Decision, will encourage people to plan ahead for their treatment and care and make their wishes known.

Just over a month into the New Year, countless resolutions will already have been made – and broken.  Many will have set out their goals for 2017 and beyond: to take control of their health, improve their fitness, learn a new skill, or pursue their dream job. We all have a vision for the future and how we’d like our lives to play out.

What people don’t plan for, however, is the unexpected. We don’t want to consider the possibility that an illness or accident could get in the way of our plans. But unfortunately the reality is that this could happen– a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a head injury, for instance, could leave you unable to make decisions or communicate what is important to you.

Many assume that there’s nothing they can do to prepare for such an event, or that they’ll have no say over what care and treatment they’ll receive. But there are things people can do now. This is the focus of a new campaign, Make It Your Decision, launched by Compassion in Dying – the first of kind focused on encouraging people to plan ahead for their future treatment and care and make their wishes known.

Make It Your Decision aims to inform people that there are things they can put in place now to ensure that if they lose capacity, they can still have control over their medical treatment and care and be at the centre of decisions – for instance by completing an Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment.

This allows people to dictate the treatment they would not want to receive if they were to lose capacity to make these choices in future. Completing one is simple and free, and it can be done at your own pace using Compassion in Dying’s website, without the need to involve a lawyer.

You can also set out other things that are important to you relating to your future care in an Advance Statement, such as your religious beliefs, dietary requirements or where you’d like to be cared for. Another option is to make a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare – appointing a trusted person to make decisions about your treatment or care on your behalf, should you become unable to.

Contrary to popular belief, family members have no automatic right to enforce their loved one’s wishes – a misconception that can be the source of much heartache, as in the case of Paul Briggs.

Specialist information and support on all the ways you can plan ahead is available every step of the way from Compassion in Dying via our free Info Line (0800 999 2434) or online.

Without a legally binding record of someone’s wishes, it falls to doctors to make best interest decisions about a patient’s care and treatment should they lose capacity through injury or illness. With person-centred care now a firm priority for the Government and health and social care providers, supporting people to plan ahead and record their wishes is more crucial than ever.

Doctors should be supported and encouraged to have these important conversations with patients, and today as part of our campaign, every GP surgery in the country will receive resources designed to help facilitate this.

Having your wishes for care and treatment set out in advance means that if you become unable to make your own decisions, you can have peace of mind that your wishes will be known and followed.  

Your family won’t be left stranded. Your doctors won’t be left to make decisions without knowing what you would or would not have wanted. Quite the opposite – by recording your wishes in a legally binding way, you can make it your decision.