In Northern Ireland there is currently no Parliamentary or Assembly law on Advance Decisions. This means there is no formal framework for Advance Decisions. However, it is very likely that a court would find that an Advance Decision that was clear and specific to the situation would have the same legally binding effect as an Advance Decision in England.
Although there is, at present, no equivalent to the Mental Capacity Act 2005 in Northern Ireland, one of the principles of the General Medical Council’s guidance on end-of-life care is that if someone lacks capacity to make a decision for themselves and needs medical treatment, the wishes of that person should be considered into consideration when making a decision on their behalf. So even if an Advance Decision does not have the same formal legal status in Northern Ireland as it does in England and Wales, healthcare professionals should take them into account when any decision is made on your behalf. Family and friends can also use them as evidence of your wishes.
However, although currently Advance Decisions don’t have the same formal legal status in Northern Ireland as in other parts of the UK, planning ahead still plays a crucial role in ensuring your wishes are respected. Making an Advance Decision tells healthcare professionals how you want to be cared for if you are unable to make a decision or speak for yourself. An Advance Statement is also evidence of your wishes and feelings so should be taken into account by healthcare professionals when deciding how to treat you.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is currently considering A Mental Capacity Bill. If passed, this Bill may provide a more formal framework for Advance Decisions.
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