Refusing treatment

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. 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.


Advance Decisions and Lasting Powers of Attorney


Advance Decisions, formerly known as Living Wills, are legally binding documents that allow you to write down what medical treatments you would want to refuse if you lost mental capacity or were unable to communicate. You can also appoint a person you trust to make decisions about medical treatment on your behalf if you lose mental capacity or the ability to communicate – this is called 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.


Contact Compassion in Dying


If you need more advice about this aspect of the law please contact our partner charity Compassion in Dying or use their free Information Line on 0800 999 2434 (open 11am to 3pm, Monday to Friday). Compassion in Dying also provide free Advance Decision template forms.