Wednesday, 1st August 2012
Planning for Incapacitation
Fiona Ormond Solicitor with MJ O'Connor Solicitors,
Confederation House, Cork Road, Waterford. 051 355663
Recently the Advance Healthcare Decision Bill 2012 was debated in the Dáil. Hopefully this Bill when enacted will spell the end to an era of uncertainty regarding a person's ability to make an Advance Decision regarding their future medical treatment at a time when they have the capacity and wish to decide what future treatment and what extent of treatment they wish to be carried out or not carried out in the event that they become terminally ill, incapacitated or unable to communicate.
Advanced Healthcare Directives are also known as Living Wills and at the moment have no legal standing in Ireland. In the future however following enactment, Advance Decisions should have the same effect as the contemporaneous consent or refusal to treatment by a patient with capacity. Also, the Bill allows for the appointment of an Attorney by the patient to make certain decisions on the patient's behalf.
In May 2012 an Irish hospital made an application to the High Court in the instance where it sought permission to amputate the leg of an unconscious patient based on evidence that such an operation was necessary to save his life. The patient had previously consented to an operation but as he lost consciousness and his condition worsened doctors concluded that amputation was necessary. Two family members refused consent. The High Court granted the Order allowing time for the family to oppose the Order which they didn't. The enactment of the Advanced Healthcare Decisions Bill will introduce mechanisms to deal with scenarios like this and importantly it will remove liability from doctors who follow the patient's Advance Decision once the Advance Decision is valid and applicable to the condition being treated.
Public debate has also commenced regarding the Mental Capacity Bill and the patients ability to make decisions regarding present and future mental health treatment.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
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