How to refuse treatment - Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Advance decision (living will)

An advance decision form lets you refuse any medical treatments that you do not want to be given in the future, in case you are unable to tell people what you want.

It will only be used if you cannot make or communicate a decision for yourself.

It is also known as a living will or advance directive, but the legal name is advance decision to refuse treatment.

Important: Important

Living wills are legally binding in England and Wales. They are not legally binding in Scotland and Northern Ireland but are often recognised and followed by doctors.

Regardless of where you live, it is always best to have your wishes clearly written down so your doctor knows about any treatments you do not want to be given.

Refusing treatment for coronavirus in your advance decision

If you do not want to receive certain treatments for coronavirus you should write this in your advance decision.

Some of the people we speak to on our information line want to refuse all life-sustaining treatment for coronavirus, and some want to only refuse certain life-sustaining treatments.

Refuse specific treatments

Some people only want to refuse some life-sustaining treatments for coronavirus. You can tailor the form to your individual wishes. If you are not sure how to write it, contact us:

Refuse all life-sustaining treatment

Some people want to refuse all life-sustaining treatment for coronavirus. Below is an example you might want to include in your advance decision. This would mean you will not be given these treatments to keep you alive, but you would still be kept comfortable.

Mechanical ventilation is included in this refusal because it is a common life-sustaining treatment for coronavirus. Invasive ventilation (intubation) means a tube being placed into your mouth, nose or through a small cut in your throat and a machine breathing for you. Non-invasive ventilation (CPAP) involves a mask being put over your face to form an airtight seal, and air being pumped into your lungs.

Example:

If I develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), whether it is suspected or confirmed, I refuse the following:

  • to be admitted to a critical care department (i.e. intensive care or a high dependency unit)
  • mechanical ventilation, both invasive (intubation) and non-invasive (CPAP)
  • cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • all other life-sustaining treatment, including but not limited to clinically assisted nutrition and hydration and antibiotics

My priority is to be made comfortable and I accept all forms of palliative medications to ensure this.

You can read more about the treatments and what might happen to you in hospital and critical care on this website developed by the Royal College of Physicians and partners.

How you include this refusal of treatment in your advance decision depends on if you have already made one or need to make one for the first time. The pages that follow explain this.

Page last reviewed: 2 June 2021
Next review due: 2 December 2021