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ReSPECT will put the human element back into end of life planning

Since the beginning of lockdown, we have noticed a significant increase in will-related enquiries, as those in high risk categories seek to get their affairs in order, however, a large gap still remains.

No one likes to cosider the prospect of dying and therefore, planning for it falls increasingly by the wayside. Even for those who make end of life plans, such as wills or Lasting Powers of Attorney documents (LPAs), many are turned off by some of the blunt terminology used, such as “do not resuscitate”.

The fact is, people have now been forced into thinking about end of life planning, perhaps where themselves or their relatives haven’t done so before. It is indeed hard to imagine that such a statement like “no not resuscitate” could be relevant to our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers or even ourselves - we’ve seen in this pandemic how COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate.

It is hardly surprising that people are increasingly turning to a more humane way of end of life planning as a way of dealing with these difficult conversations with loved ones. More than 60% of people in England have now adopted an initiative called the Recommended Summary Plan for Emergency Care and Treatment (ReSPECT). It means, instead of being faced with inhumane tick boxes against statements like “do you wish to be resuscitated”, ReSPECT simply prioritises the comfort of the individual, focusing on symptom control over any life sustaining treatment.

This is even more prevalent given the current pandemic, because it enables families to make decisions about the quality of life after COVID-19 treatment and recovery, particularly if invasive treatment is required, such as being placed on a mechanical ventilator. For some relatives, who may feel that there is a balanced risk over putting a loved one through more distress in favour of minimal chances of survival or even diminished quality of life, it is understandable that they might want to allow their loved one to pass away peacefully in line with the individual’s wishes.

Think of the NHS too, who have to make difficult decisions about the needs of the individuals every day. Ask any doctor or nurse and they will tell you they chose their profession to help people - and it is undeniably part of the NHS’ DNA to make people better, almost at any cost. Therefore, when it comes to making decisions about whether to continue a person’s care, it goes against everything they believe in too. If a patient’s wishes are recorded, it all goes towards helping make those difficult decisions, just that little bit easier.

The fact that so many people are already turning to ReSPECT as a viable option to end of life planning could be very encouraging and could go a long way to persuading more people into thinking about end of life planning, if only for the peace of mind of their families.

If you would like some advice about care for yourself or a loved one, or you would like to discuss any aspect of your will, or if you’d like to draft a Lasting Power of Attorney, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Posted on 17/06/2020 by Amber O'Connor

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