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Button wants legal living wills.

A Coventry law firm is backing calls for the introduction of controversial legally-binding living wills.

Experts at Button and Co said making living wills legally binding would clarify the law and safeguards would almost certainly be introduced to allay fears of euthanasia.

Nick Button, senior partner at Button & Co, said: 'We've been advising on living wills, or advance directives, for about five or six years but always tell clients they are not legally binding at the moment and cannot be enforced. But there seems to be a lot of pressure on the Government to make them legally binding and with the current public demand they are eventually going to become law.'

A living will says if, for example, you are in a coma or incapable of making decisions another person can be given authority to make those decisions on your behalf.

The introduction of legallybinding living wills has prompted fears of euthanasia. Patients could request that if they suffer from a condition from which they are unlikely to recover, they could direct hospitals to refrain from giving further treatment, so long as two independent doctors certify that they will not recover.

But Mr Button insisted that fears of creating a culture of euthanasia were misplaced and safeguards would be introduced to protect against it. 'Some people think that if they are not going to recover, why prolong life and suffering. If you've got a dog which is terminally ill, the vet will more often than not put it to sleep rather than prolong its suffering.

'I'm not, for one minute, suggesting we should do the same with humans, but there's a legal difference between not administering treatment and administering something to make you die which is made absolutely clear by the living will. The emphasis on living wills is about affecting the doctors' ability to administer continued treatment and I suppose at the end of the day it's somebody's right to make a decision about their treatment. Making living wills legally binding will clarify the law and I suspect there will be all sorts of safeguards when the law does change to prevent misuse of them.'

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Nick Button: Making living wills legally binding will clarify
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 7, 2005
Words:367
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