Coronavirus – Can I refuse medical treatment?

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In these strange times of COVID-19, many people are considering the possibility that they may require serious medical treatment as a result of having the disease.

Not everyone will want to receive such life-sustaining treatment, particularly if they feel the prospects of a full recovery are very slim.

If you are an adult with mental capacity, you will be asked for your consent before medical treatment and you are free to accept or refuse it.

But what happens if you lose mental capacity and cannot accept or refuse the medical treatment yourself? In such a situation the medical professionals will make a decision based on their extensive knowledge and experience.

If you know now that you would want to refuse life-sustaining treatment, it is possible to put your decision into a legal document which is binding on the medical professionals. This is called an Advance Decision to Refuse Medical Treatment (an ‘Advance Decision’).

An Advance Decision is only binding on the medical professional if it is valid and applicable to the situation you may find yourself in. Also, it is only effective if you cannot make the decision about medical treatment yourself and you are unlikely to regain that ability.

For example, you may decide that you would wish to refuse cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), use of a mechanical or artificial ventilator to help you breathe, clinically assisted nutrition and hydration, or other treatments specified by you.

If you are considering preparing an Advance Decision then you should ideally talk to a medical professional.  They will be able to advise you as to the effects of refusing medical treatment in certain circumstances.

Please note that if you already have a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare, you may already have given such decision making power to your Attorneys.

Further information

Ashtons Legal would be able to prepare an Advance Decision on your behalf and tailor it to your wishes. Please feel free to contact us to discuss.

We will be happy to talk all of this through with you by telephone, or using video conferencing via Microsoft Teams, FaceTime or WhatsApp. Of course, once the Coronavirus lockdown is over we will be able to meet with you in one of our offices.


This information is correct at 12.30pm on 27 March 2020.


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