Advanced healthcare directives might sound like a future-you problem. If you're fit, healthy and decades off end-of-life care, you’re hopefully even right.
But when it comes to setting these directives in place, it’s not about the here and now. It’s not about the near future, the distant future, or even any future you’d like to envisage. Instead, it’s about a courageous, forward thinking and smart investment for a worst case scenario where the luxury of indecisiveness, or procrastination, may no longer be within your remit.
Losing capacity could come as abruptly as in an unforeseen accident, or a rapid decline from an unexpected diagnosis. If your capacity is in question, putting healthcare directive plans in place can raise questions about whether you're of sound mind to do so. These questions, or not having one in place altogether, can create blockages to your loved ones acting in your interest. This can leave you at risk of missed opportunities on healthcare decisions which align with your end of life wishes.
So whilst you might not feel like confronting this possibility, if you're fit, healthy and still filled with life- advanced healthcare directives, and this blogpost, are especially for you.
An advanced healthcare directive is an important legal document which allows an individual to outline their healthcare wishes and decisions to be carried out if they lose capacity. Commonly referred to as advance directives or healthcare directives, these legal documents typically include instructions on the type of medical treatment a person wants to receive or avoid, as well as important details about end-of-life care, pain management, and organ donation.
There are different types of advanced healthcare directives to cover different wishes, including; advance directives, living wills, or enduring powers of attorney.The two types of advanced healthcare directives recognized in Australia are: a medical power of attorney and an advance care directive.
A medical power of attorney grants authority to an appointed person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual, if they are unable to do so themselves. This could be a family member who you trust has your best interest at heart, and good knowledge on your healthcare wishes.
In contrast, an advance care directive allows individuals to specify their medical treatment preferences, such as resuscitation, life support, and palliative care.
Advanced healthcare directives represent an essential aspect of healthcare planning in Australia. By allowing individuals to communicate their healthcare preferences and in the event of incapacity or illness, this legal document ensures a person's wishes are respected and followed by healthcare providers.
This can allow you the opportunity to get specific about medical treatment preferences, including end-of-life care, resuscitation, and pain management strategies.
Safeguarding these important wishes can help alleviate stress and uncertainty for you, when faced with an uncertain future. Similarly, an advanced healthcare directive can alleviate future stress for family members and healthcare providers who may otherwise struggle to make these medical decisions for you.
Depending on which state you're in, not having an advanced healthcare directive has different implications on the decisions others can enact for you. So it’s important to seek specific legal advice when creating one to cover you across multiple states.
Preparing for healthcare directives:
On top of organising this legal document, it’s also recommended to discuss your healthcare preferences with loved ones ahead of time. Similarly, opening up these discussions with healthcare providers can help keep you informed about your various options.
It’s also of crucial importance to keep a copy of your advanced healthcare directive in a safe and accessible location, so that family members can carry out this authority
Laws and regulations on advanced healthcare directives vary by state in Australia. Due to the important consequences of the authority these legal documents grant, it’s advisable to seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor when creating an advanced healthcare directive. This ensures the legal document complies with the relevant laws and regulations, and covers scenarios where you fall ill within a different state.
There are several different advanced healthcare directives recognised by each of these states. These include:
1. New South Wales: advanced healthcare directives are recognized as Enduring Guardianship and Advanced Care Directives. An Enduring Guardian is appointed to make decisions on behalf of the individual if they become incapacitated, while an Advanced Care Directive outlines the individual's specific healthcare preferences.
2. Victoria: advanced healthcare directives are recognized as Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker and Advance Care Directives. An Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker designates a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual, while an Advance Care Directive outlines the individual's medical treatment preferences.
3. Queensland: In this state, advanced healthcare directives are, rather easily, recognized as Advance Health Directives.
4. Western Australia: Advanced healthcare directives are recognized as Enduring Powers of Guardianship, as well as Advance Health Directives. An Enduring Power of Guardianship designates a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual if they become incapacitated, while an Advance Health Directive outlines the individual's healthcare preferences.
5. South Australia: In South Australia, advanced healthcare directives are recognized as Medical Powers of Attorney and Advance Care Directives. A Medical Power of Attorney designates a person to make medical decisions on behalf of the individual if they become incapacitated, while an Advance Care Directive outlines the individual's medical treatment preferences.
6. Tasmania: Advanced healthcare directives are recognized as Enduring Guardianship and Advance Care Directives. An Enduring Guardian is appointed to make decisions on behalf of the individual if they become incapacitated, while an Advance Care Directive outlines the individual's healthcare preferences.
7. Northern Territory: Finally, Northern Territory advanced healthcare directives are recognized as Advance Personal Plans. This legal document outlines the individual's healthcare preferences and appoints a person to make medical decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated.
It is important to note that the laws and regulations regarding advanced healthcare directives can change over time. Consulting with expert legal advisors can ensure your directives remain in line with these changes, and your medical decision-making locked in.
Whilst the specifics differ by state, we provide a general guide on how to create an advanced healthcare directive.
Consider your healthcare preferences: Before creating an advanced healthcare directive, take some time to reflect on your healthcare preferences. Think about what type of medical treatment you would want in different scenarios, including end-of-life care, resuscitation, and pain management.
Choose a person to appoint: An advanced healthcare directive usually involves appointing a person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This person is often referred to as a medical power of attorney or an enduring guardian. Choose someone you trust to make decisions that align with your healthcare preferences.
Obtain & fill out necessary advance director forms: Different states and territories in Australia have specific forms for creating advanced healthcare directives. These can usually be obtained from the relevant government department or healthcare provider, and allow you to outline specific healthcare planning on which treatments you do and do not want.
Sign & distribute the forms: These forms must then be signed in the presence of witnesses, over the age of 18 and not related to you or the person you are appointing.It;s important to then distribute the forms to appointed people, healthcare providers, and family members. Keep a copy for yourself and make sure that it is easily accessible.
Review and update regularly: it’s important to review advanced healthcare directives regularly to reflect any changes in your healthcare preferences, the person you appointed or changing legal requirements.
Safewill offers an affordable, flexible and expert service for outlining your important wishes, ahead of time. Write your will from the comfort of your couch, or draw up your advanced healthcare directive whilst commuting to work.
Regardless of when, or where, you want to do it- our legal experts work around you. Allowing you to protect your assets, your wishes and your health without breaking the bank or stealing too much time.
Get in touch for a chat with one of our compassionate team experts today on 1300 730 639 - available to support you at your time of need, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.