The Gibraltar government has just introduced a Lasting Powers of Attorney and Capacity Bill to give people the confidence of knowing that their wishes will be respected and protected if they lose the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves in the future.
The Bill was passed unanimously by Parliament. Once the law comes into force, individuals in Gibraltar who are over the age of 18, while they have mental capacity, will be able to record a statement of their wishes regarding financial and health matters, and this will be registered at the Supreme Court Registry.
Under this Bill, they can grant a Lasting Power of Attorney to a specific person whom they trust, who will then have the authority to act on their behalf if they lose mental capacity in future.
It means the attorney can make decisions about everything from everyday matters to serious life-changing decisions such as whether to move into a care home or have major surgery.
People can also register their preference regarding medical treatment, for example by stipulating their refusal to undergo certain types of treatment in the future, in case when the time comes they are unable to express that refusal themselves.
The new law carries safeguards to prevent it being abused, and new criminal offences have been created to deter people who have been appointed as attorneys from intentionally or recklessly ill-treating or neglecting the person they are empowered to represent.
Talking about the new Bill this week, the Minister for Health, Care and Justice, Neil Costa, said: “Persons living, amongst other things, with mental disorders, who no longer have the mental capacity to express their wishes, should be able to receive such care and treatment as they need and want. It is this second part which is so crucial. A person has the right to choose what may be done with their body or their mind in the event that they lose their mental capacity in the future. The Act is recognition of a person's autonomy and their right to make choices and be protected.”