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Advance Directive

45 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 10 August 2010

A woman is brought to A&E by her husband . She is unconscious having attempted suicide. She's been in pain for more than 30 years with severe arthritis. Having witnessed elderly relatives' death in distressing circumstances years ago, she and her husband have written living wills or advance directives. They ask for no medical treatment in certain circumstances. She has always maintained with everyone she knew that she doesn't ever want to be admitted to intensive care. She has left five copies of her advance directive with her husband, sister, daughter, lawyer and GP. The staff in A&E are torn about what to do - should they admit her to intensive care and save her life, or let her die ?
What should hospital staff do? Do they admit her to A&E against the spirit of her advanced directive or give basic treatment knowing it might prolong her life against her wishes but prevent a slow painful death caused by the overdose?
Joan Bakewell is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the complex ethical issues around advanced directives and decision making at the end of life.
Producer: Pam Rutherford.


Explore ethics in more depth with The Open University

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