The case of Betty Figg, the 86 year old dementia sufferer who was forcibly removed from her daughter’s home by Social Services in April 2009 with the assistance of police, doctors and a battering ram, was a startling demonstration of the disputes that can arise once a person is no longer capable of making decisions about their health and welfare.
Disputes can arise over issues such as where a person should live or over what medical treatment should, or should not, be given to them.
In such circumstances doctors and social services have the power to make many decisions based on their view of what is in the best interests of the person concerned. Whilst they should consult with family members, they are not obliged to follow their wishes.
Anyone wishing to ensure that such decisions are made by a loved one, rather than by a health or social care professional, should ensure that they have made a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney.
These documents were introduced in October 2007 and enable you to give legal authority to a person or persons of your choice – your Attorney(s) – to make decisions regarding your health and welfare, once you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourself. If you wish, this can extend to making decisions about life-sustaining treatment.
It is important to note that neither an Enduring Power of Attorney nor a Property and Financial Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney will enable your Attorneys to make decisions about your health and welfare.
The powers you are granting to your Attorneys are far-reaching and you should therefore seek legal advice before completing a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney.