Public consultation on living wills legislation in Ireland

Categories: Policy.

Advance healthcare directives are statements made by adults with capacity setting out their wishes in relation to the type and extent of medical treatments they would or would not want to receive in anticipation of future incapacity to make decisions.

Announcing the consultation, Minister Dr James Reilly TD explained: “Advance healthcare directives represent an important means by which people can exercise their autonomy, which is an integral component of a patient-focused model of healthcare.

“Given that there is currently no specific legislation pertaining to advance healthcare directives in Ireland, incorporating provisions for advance healthcare directives into the Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity) Bill 2013 represents an efficient and practical method of consolidating the law in this area.”

In a joint statement, the Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) and the Forum on End of Life in Ireland welcomed the announcement.

Sharon Foley, CEO of the IHF, said: “The introduction of this draft legislation is very welcome. While advance healthcare directives are recognised in common law, the introduction of a legal framework to cover advance healthcare directives is an essential step in recognising the need to promote the autonomy of patients in relation to treatment choices and supporting the development of patient-centred care.”

Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, Chair of the National Council of the Forum on End of Life in Ireland, added: “The National Council will carefully review this draft legislation and will take part in the consultation process. We believe that introducing legislation for advance healthcare directives will promote the right of a patient to actively participate in their own healthcare and bring clarity for healthcare professionals as well as families on rights and responsibilities.”

The National Council of the Forum on End of Life in Ireland has developed an advance planning tool called Think Ahead which guides people in looking at and recording all aspects of end of life: legal, economic, healthcare preferences and wishes for organ donation and funeral arrangements. It also provides for an advance healthcare directive.

The consultation will run until 7 March 2014, and further details can be found on the Irish Department of Health website.