As you know, we bring you regular updates on legal matters that might affect you. This time, we explore the emotive subject of end-of-life decisions.

In a new report (see link below), England’s Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman has warned that British people and health professionals need to change the way they talk about death and end-of-life care.

Here are some of the issues to consider:


It’s a controversial topic, but we assume most people would want to end their life in a dignified way. For example, if their heart or breathing stops, an elderly or disabled person might not want doctors to attempt resuscitation. To do this, they need to get a DNACPR notice via their GP (It stands for “Do Not Attempt CardioPulmonary Resuscitation).

Usually, CPR decisions happen in a stressful emergency setting when it would be far better for families to have this conversation in advance, with empathy and compassion. In the worst-case scenario, doctors make the decision. If the patient has capacity, it is illegal not to inform them about the DNACPR notice. If they don’t have capacity, then their next of kin must be informed. Sadly, this does not always happen, as recent case law demonstrates.

Source: End-of-life care: Improving DNACPR conversations for everyone

Assisted dying

Age and disability should not affect the human right to be treated with respect and care. We are all covered by the Human Rights Act 1998, which protects:

These issues are also key when making decisions about end-of-life care. For example, it means that, if someone has a terminal, degenerative condition, they have the right to choose to end their own life. Some of these cases have been tested in the Supreme Court.

You’ve probably heard of Dignitas, the non-profit assisted dying clinic in Switzerland, founded in 1998.

If you take your loved one to Dignitas, and are present during the process, you face the risk of prosecution and up to 14 years in prison once you return to the UK.

It’s a hot topic. Broadcaster, Esther Rantzen, has terminal lung cancer, and is one of the people who has joined Dignitas. She has recently begged MPs to attend a debate on assisted dying – the debate was triggered after over 200,000 people signed a petition for dying people to be able to request medical assistance to end their lives.

Source: BBC Esther Rantzen begs MPs to attend assisted dying debate 

You might also have seen the Channel 4 debate between Prue Leith and her son Danny Kruger. If not, you can catch it here: Prue and Danny’s Death Road Trip

Currently, Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man are working towards changing the law that relates to assisted dying.

How we can help

As solicitors, we can help you and your loved ones to do some thinking and planning around these key issues in a supportive and objective way.

For example, we can work with you to arrange what will happen about your health and welfare (as well as finance and property decisions) in the form of Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). This means, if a time comes when you lose capacity to decide about life-sustaining treatment for yourself (for example), you can nominate a person who’ll do that for you.

You can read one of our articles about LPAs here Potential Power of Attorney changesYou’ll find more information on our website at Powers of Attorney & vulnerable client issues, and can also get in touch to ask for our Free Guide to Being an Attorney.

As you’d expect, we can also help with Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Tax Planning – all things that are worth thinking about sooner rather than later.

For more information, please see our page on Wills, Trusts & Inheritance Tax planning.