Advance Directives in Some Western European Countries: A Legal and Ethical Comparison between Spain, France, England, and Germany

In: European Journal of Health Law

We have studied national laws on advance directives in various Western European countries: Romance-speaking countries (Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain), English-speaking countries (Ireland and the United Kingdom), and German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland). We distinguish two potentially complementary types of advance medical declaration: the ‘living will’ and the nomination of a legal proxy. After examining the similarities and differences between countries, we analyse in detail the legislation of four countries (Spain, France, England, and Germany), since the other countries in this survey have similar legal principles and/or a similar political approach. In conclusion, we note that in all the countries examined, advance directives have been seen as an instrument to enable the patient’s right to self-determination. Notwithstanding, in Romance-speaking countries, the involvement of physicians in the end-of-life process and risks arising from the execution of advance directives were also considered.

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