Do general practitioners know when living wills are legal?

J R Coll Physicians Lond. 1998 Jul-Aug;32(4):351-3.


Background: There is growing public awareness of living wills or advance directives. Patients who wish to make advance directives may approach general practitioners (GPs) for advice. However, many GPs are unaware of the correct legal status of living wills.

Methods: Questionnaires were sent to 270 GPs in London and Winchester, asking seven questions about the current legal status of living wills.

Results: Of the 214 GPs (79%) who returned questionnaires, only 104 (49%) were aware that some types of advance directives could carry legal force. Many of the GPs who did know that living wills could be legally binding were unable correctly to answer further questions on the practicalities of the law; for example, 26% were wrong in believing that a lawyer had to draw up a living will, and 13% incorrectly believed that a doctor was legally required to give any treatment requested by a patient in a living will.

Conclusions: Half of the GPs surveyed were unaware that living wills currently have legal force and most of the rest were unaware of important details of the law. More attention needs to be given to the education of doctors in this area.

MeSH terms

  • Advance Directives / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Family Practice / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Living Wills / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom