Advance Care Directives

What if you found yourself in a situation where you needed medical attention but couldn’t tell the doctor what you wanted, or more importantly, didn’t want to happen?  Fortunately, from 12 March 2018 in Victoria a change in the law now allows more ways to plan ahead and regain control of your medical treatment decisions. 

You can now create a document called an ‘Advance Care Directive’ (“ACD”) where you can express your personal wishes about certain medical treatments that you do or do not wish to have. While you could previously prepare an Advanced Care Plan to do the same thing it was not binding on the doctor. This is where the ACD now must be followed by your medical team. To be effective the ACD must be witnessed by either a lawyer or medical practitioner.

Previously, if an accident or illness left you unable to make your own medical decisions, Victorians relied on either the treating doctor deciding what to do, based on their professional codes, or having a medical Power of Attorney trying to make a decision in the way they thought the person would want.

The role of a medical decision maker has been changed by the law in that an ACD can now make those difficult decisions (such as treatment that may result in life or death). This will save a person from being in the position of questioning whether they made the right decision for significant medical treatment where the outcome was not as desired.

Where an ACD doesn’t deal with the particular question or treatment the doctor is seeking guidance on, this is where your medical treatment decision maker can step in and decide. The role of appointing a substituted medical treatment decision maker is therefore still an important step to complete, particularly if you choose not to complete an ACD. In the event that you do not complete an ACD it will be the medical treatment decision maker who makes all decisions for you.

Despite it being human nature to avoid planning for the “what if” scenarios, Partners Legal encourages you to start the conversation with your loved ones and prepare your ACD and other estate planning documents to provide peace of mind to you and your family.

For more information, please contact Partners Legal at legal@pwg.com.au or call 1300 333 143 to work with our legal team to create a tailored Estate Plan.