Holby City Hospital and Lasting Powers of Attorney

BBC1’s Casualty is a little bit like a live training session for our profession. Any series set in a hospital is bound to include scenarios where death or unconsciousness are never far away. The relevance of Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney is often brought home.

Last Saturday’s episode was no different, featuring the rather sad story of an elderly couple, Clive and Nina. Clive, we are told, is going to be taken away by ‘them’ and put into a care home so the couple decide to drive off to a favourite spot and take some tablets to end it all. Nina appears to be the main instigator of this as Clive’s mental capacity is on the wane.

The suicide pact goes wrong as they are found in the car by a passing stranger and taken to Holby General. Nina makes a quick recovery but Clive is not so lucky. Although he comes around he is soon in VF, we are told, and a decision needs to be made quickly about whether to resuscitate. This brings me to the point of the story.

Nina is forced to watch in horror as the doctors attempt to resuscitate Clive despite her screaming at them not to. In quite a harrowing scene, ribs were heard to crack and poor Clive passes away despite the attempts to save him.

Families find themselves in this situation more often that we might think. Under the law, Nina has no legal authority to prevent Doctors from acting in what they see as their patient’s best interest.

If there is a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare in place for someone who cannot make their own decisions then the decision on whether to resuscitate is made by the Attorneys. These will normally be family members who know the person well and know what they would have wanted. Any Doctor going against the wishes of an Attorney who believes he or she is acting in the patient’s best interest can be held personally liable for their actions.

It is my strong belief that in a situation like the one Nina found herself in (and taking aside the assisted suicide issue with the tablets), if Clive had appointed her under a Lasting Powers of Attorney there would have been no resuscitation. What’s more, Nina might well have been able to prevent ‘them’ from taking Clive into care in the first place.

Steve Wilkes, MSWW, Aff. STEP is the Managing Director of Silver Lining Estate Planning Ltd. 01473 358195

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