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Right to Die cards sound sensible in theory

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I recently came across Right to Die cards. These cards came about after the Mental Capacity Act 2005, which allows adults
to draw up advance directives stating the treatments they would reject should they lose the capacity to make their wishes known.

The cards say: ‘STOP. I have made an advance decision to refuse treatment.’

It sounds extremely sensible. But consider this scenario. When a person is seriously injured in a road accident or collapses in the street, the emergency team attending will go out of their way to preserve life. They are not going to rummage for a Right to Die card – this would waste precious minutes.

What if the person does not have one of these cards and dies as a result of treatment being delayed – would the paramedics be held responsible?

On the other hand, if the casualty does have one of these cards and, days later, emerges from a coma with an active mind but paralysed and bedridden, can they sue? And who do they hold responsible for their condition?

These cards would be invaluable if someone has a debilitating illness or a degenerative condition and they complete a card before they deteriorate. In these situations, the next of kin can inform the clinical team and this will eliminate any misunderstandings.

I have friends who carry these cards in the belief that if they are suddenly unable to make a decision or are in a traumatic incident such as a road accident, they will not be resuscitated. But paramedics have told me that they are duty bound to preserve life until they get the patient to the hospital.

So, you are revived at the roadside and life is maintained until you get to hospital. When the clinical team are taking stock of all personal belongings and they find a Right to Die card – do they pull the plugs?

Suzanne Bordiak, RGN, is a health and social care teacher

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