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If you are a competent adult you have the right to refuse treatment. This is the case even if your doctor disagrees with you and wants you to be treated.
If you are given treatment against your wishes then the person who has treated you may be guilty of assault or trespass to the person. This applies even to health care professionals. That is why health care professionals always seek your consent to medical treatment. If you refuse to consent, then they must not subject you to the treatment you do not want.
There may be circumstances where you would not be able to communicate your decision to refuse treatment, for instance, if you have had a stroke. Many people make an Advance Decision because they want to be in control of making these medical treatment decisions even if they cannot communicate.
Advance Decisions, formerly known as Living Wills, are legal. They have been legal for a long time. However to make sure your Advance Decision is legally enforceable it must be quite specific. Should you find yourself in a situation where you cannot communicate in order for the Advance Decision to be followed by your doctor, it must cover the situation which has arisen. You should update your Advance Decision regularly.
In 2007 the Mental Capacity Act 2005 came into force. As well as giving advance decisions statutory force, the Mental Capacity Act allows you to appoint a person to make decisions about medical treatment on your behalf - a Lasting Power of Attorney.
If you don't have an Advance Decision or a Lasting Power of Attorney your doctor will decide what treatment to give you on the basis of what they consider to be in your best interests. Legally, relatives have no say in the matter.
If you need more advice about this aspect of the law please contact us. You can call us on 020 7479 7730 or use our free online contact form.