Advance directives and living wills: Self-determination in every life situation

Self-determination in every life situation. Thanks to advance directives and living wills.

Strokes of misfortune don't have a schedule. That's why advance directives and living wills cover all contingencies and ensure a self-determined life. This is only possible, however, if you make use of the configuration options. The differences between advance directives and living wills at a glance.

Advance directives and living wills for a self-determined life

In certain situations, help and protection may be needed not only by children, but also by adults. This may be the case, for example, if you lose decision-making capacity due to an illness, an accident, or as an effect of old age.

In such cases, the child and adult protective services (CAPA) determine who will be responsible for handling the protection of the person requiring help. They ensure that the law is applied correctly and rule on the establishment of conservatorships in cases where statutory partner representation does not apply and there is no advance directive on file.

Anyone who wants a self-determined solution for themselves needs to play an active role in planning ahead. Swiss adult protection law enables self-determination. Whenever possible, this or the statutory right of representation by the spouse or registered partner takes priority over official measures. There are two measures which can ensure self-determination in the event of a loss of decision-making capacity: the advance directive and the living will.

What is an advance directive?

Advance directives make it possible for every adult with decision-making capacity to define who will represent them in the event that they can no longer take care of themselves. The advance directive covers the areas of personal care and financial care. We recommend entrusting both areas to your trusted individual. In special cases, however, delegating these to different people may be sensible. The appointed individuals can be given instructions for the performance of these tasks.

  • Personal care: The personal care provider must ensure the care and orderly everyday life of the subject. This includes managing their living situation (e.g. decisions on accommodation) and arranging all necessary health measures (if no living will is on file).
  • Financial care: The person designated with financial care has to manage all assets, file tax returns, and represent the subject's financial affairs. The Federal Council's investment ordinance is not applicable.

What you need to know

Where should an advance directive be kept?

The advance directive should be stored safely and in a manner which is accessible to family members or the designated care providers. It is absolutely critical that the latter are aware of the place of storage.

In order to ensure that CAPA is notified immediately of the existence of an advance directive in the event of the loss of decision-making capacity, the place of storage can be added to the registry office's register of individuals. In some cantons, the advance directive can also be filed directly with the responsible CAPA.

What happens if no advance directive exists?

In cases where no advance directive is in place and no partner representation rights apply, CAPA appoints a conservator.

What is a living will?

The living will covers all medical concerns. It makes it possible for you to specify which medical measures should be carried out if you are no longer able to make your own decisions on such matters. It also allows you to make specific arrangements for matters such as organ donation, pastoral accompaniment, or the desired place of death. You can also appoint a representative who will represent your wishes and receive access to your medical history.

The living will makes it easier for physicians to make difficult decisions and also provides relief to relatives.

What you need to know

Where should a living will be kept?

The living will should be provided to the attending physician and, where applicable, the representative. You should keep an information card specifying emergency contacts and the place of storage for the living will in your wallet.

What happens if no living will exists?

If there is no living will on file, family members and doctors must decide which medical treatment should be carried out, such as whether life support measures should be taken or if the machines should be turned off in cases where there are no prospects for improvement.

Differences between advance directives and living wills at a glance

Differences between advance directives and living wills at a glance

Source: Credit Suisse

Preparing an advance directive and living will means being on the safe side

Accidents happen every day, and severe illnesses can affect people of any age. Taking precautions in regard to decision-making capacity is the only way to prevent external determination. Advance directives and living wills not only ensure greater certainty, but also provide relief for relatives.