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When you are ill, you can usually make your own decisions based on discussing treatment options with your health care team. But if you develop a severe mental illness or suffer serious brain damage (e.g. from a car accident or stroke) the medical team will make the decisions for you. Such decisions may take little account of what you would have wanted in the situation.

In 2007 a new Mental Capacity Act was introduced in England and Wales. The Act is designed to protect people who ‘lack capacity’ (i.e. are judged unable to make decisions for themselves). It states that any treatment should take into account what an individual might have wanted. The Act also allows anyone to make legally binding 'Advance Decisions' - statements setting out which treatments you would like to refuse in any given situation.

Polly championed the rights that are enshrined in the Mental Capacity Act. Indeed, she helped others to write Advance Decisions. Ironically, however, she never got around to writing one herself. Although we are relieved to have won the welfare deputyship for Polly, this can never substitute for an Advance Decision.

Please consider taking action now to ensure that your health care choices will be respected. You could write an Advance Decision. Alternatively (or in addition) you can appoint someone to represent you by setting up a Lasting Power of Attorney now. Visit the sites below for easy, step-by-step, guides of what to do.

Mind: www.mind.org.uk (For mental health service users)
Info about advance decisions; and Health Care and Welfare/Personal Care Decisions: Briefing 4

Getting Polly’s Voice Heard

Compassion in Dying: www.compassionindying.org.uk
Info about advance decisions; sample advance decision forms

Court of Protection: ‘Making Arrangements for Yourself
about appointing someone to represent you

One of  Polly's sisters actual Advanced Decision
You may find this more helpful than the generic examples in helping you to think about specific details.
Polly's sisters are now researching and writing on serious brain injury.
If you would like to know more, here is a blog they wrote:
M, Polly, and the Right to Die: the hastings center.org/Bioethicsforum
But please note it includes some disturbing details and information.
Let Us Know
If you are inspired to take action – do E-mail and tell us. We’d like to know if Polly’s story helps other people. We hope this will be a lasting tribute to Polly’s passionate commitment to all health service users having their voices heard.