Enormous stress and guilt can result from a family member having to make an end of life or withdrawal of medical support decision for you. We advocate that as part of our clients’ Strategic Estate Plan, they complete and sign an Advance Health Directive.
This is a document that prescribes in different circumstances what health decisions and specific medical treatment you have decided on.
Pursuant to the Powers of Attorney Act 1998 you have been able to make binding decisions on the terms of the health care such as CPR, blood products, intravenous fluids, naso-gastric feeding and pain relief (not the full list).
Note the difference with merely appointing a person as your Health and Personal Matters Attorney under the Act, is that they are able to be called on to make a health decision, but they are not bound to make any particular decision.
This uncertainty may be abhorrent and unacceptable to many people who prefer to mandate an outcome or treatment in certain circumstances. I guess in the end we are all human no matter how successful in life we are and the thought of having to be artificially sustained for a long period of time might not seem like the best exit.
It can be tricker for people who end up having a fluctuating level of capacity due to a mental health condition. Cue the Mental Health Act 2016 by which an SOC an Advance Health Directive are recognised. It is possible to dictate the future mental health treatment when a person has capacity and used to provide “future” consent instead of involuntary treatment.
There is a positive obligations on doctors and health professionals to check available records and to report reasons for not following them.
The Form requires a consultation with medical practitioner who must take you through every medical procedure listed and in each of the circumstances whether it is persistent vegetative state, terminal illness or unconscious. Not the most pleasant topic but all the same very critical to many people in terms of having the chance to determine the outcome should the circumstances arise.
There is a push for a national framework to ensure consistent approach in all states.
Everyone is presumed to have capacity until proven otherwise.
In our view it is critical that clients address this difficult issue by getting a valid and clearly stated document signed at the same time as their will and Enduring Power of Attorney. Ask us how!