Life is full of surprises and not everything goes according to plan. The one thing we treasure is the freedom to make a choice about our life including our health care. As distinct from an Enduring power of Attorney, it is important to plan ahead for the possibility that you may no longer be able to make serious end of life decisions regarding your health care. What happens if you lose capacity to make health decisions on your own behalf?
A situation may arise where you suffer from an accident, dementia or a mental illness. It is absolutely vital to express your wishes for your future health care ahead of time, so that health professionals have clear directions about the types of treatment that you want to receive. Doing so can also relieve the burden experienced by your loved ones when making difficult decisions on your behalf. Every person we have spoken to that had to make that tough decision about continuing life support for their spouse felt terrible no what the decision made.
Certainty about your end if life health care can be achieved through an Advance Health Directive (‘AHD’), a binding legal document which spells out your future health care preferences. The document under ‘Your Directions’, is divided into three parts; life-sustaining treatment, other health care and blood transfusions. You can give binding directions in each category, so that a hospital or doctor knows exactly what you require.
An AHD allows you to give directions about life-sustaining treatments such as CPR, assisted ventilation and artificial nutrition (example naso-gastric feeding) which aim to prolong your life. To make a decision, on whether you want this to be done, we recommend that you consider your age, state of health, your values and what quality of life means to you. You can choose to either choose yes or no to particular treatment in different sets of circumstances to life-sustaining treatments, or even leave the decision with your attorneys.
The next part of the document allows you to give directions regarding both general and special health care. General health care relates to the majority of medical treatments, procedures and services for mental and physical conditions. Conversely, special health care includes procedures such as organ donation, experimental health care and participation in special medical research are options you can choose.
The final part of ‘Your Directions’ relates to blood transfusions. This includes the transfer of blood, red cells, platelets and/or plasma. You may stipulate the terms upon which you would consent to a blood transfusion or list the types of transfusions that you would accept. This section may also be useful if you have religious preferences that do not sanction the procedure.
Your doctor will need to explain the treatment options to you and witness your AHD to confirm that you have capacity to execute the document. During the appointment, your doctor will explain the medical implications of each health states and treatment in the context of your medical history. If you are terminal, palliative, unconscious or in a permanent negative state, you may consider treatments in a different light and select different options.
It is also worth noting that an updated version of this document was recently released by the Queensland Government which allows you to appoint attorneys for health matters. This section does not need to be filled out if you have prepared an EPA.
If you wish to have an Advance Health Directive as part of your strategic estate plan to ensure that your wishes regarding your future health care are clearly recorded, please contact our office on (07) 3839 7555.