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PACE calls for greater account to be taken of patients’ previously expressed wishes

Strasbourg, 25.01.2012 – In order to encourage member states to take greater account of patients’ previously expressed wishes, PACE called on them today to sign, ratify and fully implement the Oviedo Convention*, if they have not yet done so, and to apply the recent Committee of Ministers recommendation on principles concerning continuing powers of attorney and advance directives for incapacity. The resolution adopted by the Assembly also proposes a series of innovative principles in this area, complementing those enshrined in the Council of Europe instruments.

The text adopted, which is not intended to deal with the issues of euthanasia or assisted suicide, points out that the Council of Europe conventions, which are legally binding, include the right of every human being not to be compelled to undergo medical treatment against his or her will. The Oviedo Convention stipulates, in particular, that previous wishes relating to a medical intervention expressed by a patient who is not, at the time of the intervention, in a state to express his or her wishes “shall be taken into account”.

The Assembly stressed that, in terms of legislation, the situation in Europe is very diverse and that only a tiny minority of people actually make use of advance directives, living wills and/or continuing powers of attorney, which makes it difficult to take their previously expressed wishes into account.

On the basis of the conclusions reached by the rapporteur, Jordi Xuclà i Costa (Spain, ALDE), PACE recommended that countries with no specific legislation on the matter should introduce legislative provisions promoting advance directives, living wills and/or continuing powers of attorney. Countries with specific legislation on the matter should, for their part, ensure that the relevant Council of Europe standards are met by this legislation and that the general public and medical and legal professions implement it in practice.