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Advance Directives

 On 22 February 2007 the Council published:
Is It Time For Advance Healthcare Directives? Opinion.
Click here to download the report 

For a lower resolution version of the opinion document (1.5Mb) click here

Pictured at the launch of the report:
Mr Dermot Gleeson SC, Chair of the Council (top) and Professor David Smith (above), member of rapporteur group on Advance Directives.

An advance directive/living will is a statement made in writing or orally by a competent adult relating to the type and extent of medical treatment they would or would not want to undergo in the future should they be unable to express their wishes at that time. In some cases advance directives can also include a proxy directive, whereby the person who made the directive nominates someone (a proxy) to make medical treatment decisions on their behalf should they be unable to express their wishes. It should be noted that an advance directive is not enforceable if the actions outlined in it are themselves illegal e.g., request for euthanasia.

The report examines a host of issues related to advance healthcare directives, such as the extent and limits of an individual's autonomy, the legal status of advance directives in Ireland, their scope and their implementation.

Pictured at the launch: Dr Dolores Dooley and Professor Denis Cusack.

Pictured at the launch (from left to right): Dr John Hillery, Ms Mary Rose Carroll,
Dr Deirdre Madden, and Prof Seán O'Briain.

Press release...

In February 2006, the Irish Council for Bioethics established a Rapporteur Group to consider the ethical and legal issues surrounding the structure, content and practicality of implementing advance directives (also known as living wills), and whether there is a demand or a necessity for such directives, legally binding or otherwise, in Ireland.

Public Consultation
As part of the consultative process for its deliberations, the Council surveyed public opinion in Ireland in the form of a questionnaire. The Council received a total of 429 responses to the consultation. An analysis of the results is included as an appendix to the final document. In addition, the Council held a number of meetings with interested parties from the fields of law, medicine, philosophy, theology and ethics.

Terms of Reference
1. To determine if there is a demand or a necessity for advance directives, legally binding or otherwise, in Ireland
2. To consider the legal and ethical issues surrounding the feasibility, format, content and implementation of advance directives
3. To seek the views of stakeholders and the general public on issues relating to advance directives
4. To produce an opinion report detailing all aspects of the Council’s deliberations and conclusions on advance directives

Rapporteur Group


Dr. Peter McKenna Rotunda Hospital
Mr. Asim A. Sheikh, BL Division of Legal Medicine, University College Dublin
Professor David Smith Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Pictured at the launch of the report: Mr Dermot Gleeson SC, Chairman of the Council (centre), Professor David Smith (left) and Mr Asim A Sheikh BL (right), members of the rapporteur group on Advance Directives.