Advance Directives in the UK: Legal, Ethical, and Practical Considerations for Doctors
Kessel, Anthony S.
British Journal of General Practice. 1998 May; 48(430): 1263-1266.
In the United Kingdom (UK), advance directives have recently received considerable attention from professional and voluntary organizations as well as medical journals and the media. However, despite such exposure, many doctors remain uncertain of the importance or relevance of advance directives with regard to their own clinical practice. This paper addresses these uncertainties by first explaining what advance directives are and then describing the current legal status of such directives in the UK. Examination of the cases underpinning this status reveals several key elements: competence, information, anticipation, applicability, and freedom from duress. Each is discussed. Although this paper focuses on legal issues, it is important that medical law does not dominate medical ethics. Accordingly, the paper also discusses some important philosophical and sociological considerations that have remained largely unexplored in the medical press. Finally, the paper deals with practical matters, including how the general practitioner might be involved.
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