Advance directives as an instrument in an ageing Europe

Eur J Health Law. 2012 Apr;19(2):121-40. doi: 10.1163/157180912x628208.


Advance directives are written or oral statements that are intended to govern healthcare decision-making for their authors, for both positive and negative decisions, should they lose decisional capacity in the future. In a Europe which is facing an ageing population, advance directives play an increasing role to (help) formulate the wishes from elderly patient once they start losing the capacity to decide independently. Advance directives should not only be used as a formulation of the patients' previously made decision, but can also be used as guidelines to better understand the previous expressed wishes of the patient. If the advance directive is formulated in too vague form, the healthcare proxy and/or the healthcare trustee can help the physician interpret the directive. This broader approach towards advance directives is reflected in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as on the European legislative level.

Publication types

  • Legal Case
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advance Directives / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Population Dynamics
  • Proxy / legislation & jurisprudence