Advanced Health Care Directives – Are they really necessary?

Posted by Luisa-Maria Maroun on 24 February 2015

Every adult with capacity to make decisions for themselves has the right to decide on the  health care that they receive.  This is reasonably straightforward when people are in good health and can speak and decide for themselves. However , when people are involved in accidents or suffer from severe illness they may not be able to communicate their wishes at a time when  significant decisions may need to be made as to the care that they receive.  For this reason, many people opt to have an Advance Health Care Directive prepared.

An Advanced Health Care Directive is a document which states a person's  wishes and/or directions with respect to the future health care they receive in  various medical scenarios.   They only apply in the event that the person is  unable to make their own decisions as to the treatment that they receive.  An Advanced Health Care Directive can incorporate a range of instructions  from general instructions regarding the level of treatment that a person is  to receive  in the event that they temporarily lose capacity, through to more specific directions about particular conditions. These more detailed directions can cover things like  allergies in relation to medication, the effect that any religious beliefs may have in relation to the treatment that is administered and  the implementation of life sustaining measures in the event that you have been diagnosed with a terminal, incurable or irreversible illness or condition.

The Advanced Health Care Directive also provides  an opportunity to express  specific views about particular types of Health Care or health matters such as organ and tissue donation for therapeutic reasons or for other medical or scientific purposes.

The Advanced Health Care Directive essentially goes hand in hand with an Enduring Guardianship. If  you have an existing Enduring Guardianship in place, it would be beneficial  to discuss your Advanced Health Care Directive with your guardian(s), so that they are aware of your views and wishes regarding your health care.

We  also suggest that you communicate with your treating practitioner, as they may be able to assist you in deciding the form of treatment that would be suitable to your medical needs, keeping in mind that your general or specialist medical practitioner will know your medical history and views and will be able to explain to you any medical terms you are unsure of. 

In considering whether you need an Advanced Health Care Directive, if you do not have an Enduring Guardianship in place, you may also wish  to consider appointing  one.  An Enduring Guardian  can  make decisions  in relation to accommodation, health and services in the event that you lose the capacity to make your own decisions. The appointment of an Enduring Guardian takes effect only if you lose the capacity to make your own major personal decisions.

It is important to note that an Enduring Guardian is not empowered to make decisions about your money or assets.  In the event that you do wish to nominate somebody to make such decisions, this can only be achieved via an Enduring Power of Attorney. This document will enable you to appoint someone to manage your financial affairs. 

If you have any queries about your Estate Planning requirements or need to discuss what would be best for your circumstances, give the experienced team at Dooley & Associates a call.