The Patient’s Will – Why and for Whom? Forms, Formalisation, and Implementation Issues
If a patient decides they do not wish to receive health care services and would prefer to die, the healthcare service provider is not allowed to provide health care services to the patient under the principle of personal autonomy. In this case, the patient’s will needs to be taken into consideration even when they are currently unable to express it themselves, for instance when the patient is unconscious.
In the situations where the patient is unable to express their will on their own, many countries have introduced the use of living wills that are also often called advance directives. A living will is a declaration (usually in writing) on what kind of treatment a person wishes or does not wish to receive in a situation in which they are unable to make decisions on their own, for instance, in the case of unconsciousness or dementia. In addition to preparing a living will, people can also provide future health care directives by assigning a substitute decision maker who can express the person’s presumed will in case of the person being unable to express their decision.
The most effective means for ensuring one’s personal autonomy is using a living will, since it is compiled by the person themselves. Although living wills are not common in Estonia, the legislation of the country makes no obstacles for its use. The people of Estonia are also becoming increasingly aware of their rights. People have already turned to notaries with a wish of providing notarial future directives on the provision of health care services or maintenance of their property in the case that they no longer have the capacity to exercise their will themselves.
The article discusses the role of a living will near the end of life and also discusses the issues related to its formation and implementation. The last part of the article briefly addresses the instructions related to maintenance of the patient’s assets in the case of incapacity to exercise the will.