What is an Advance Care Directive?
It's never pleasant planning for the worst. But a plan will always make dealing with the worst that bit easier. An Advance Care Directive (ACD) is simply you outlining how you want to be cared for if you tragically lose the ability to make your own decisions.
So, even if you're feeling fit and healthy, it's still a smart idea to consider writing an ACD now. In fact, while your brain is still functioning well, now is the best time to record your health care wishes.
Our expert lawyers can prepare your Advance Care Directive for you, providing you with the best advice to ensure your ACD is legally sound and expresses your wishes for your care.
Why is an ACD so important?
If you are in an accident or fall suddenly ill and you are unconscious or otherwise unable to make decisions, your family or doctors will use your ACD to make decisions around the treatment you need.
Planning for your future medical care can sometimes be confronting. But, think about the peace of mind you'll have knowing that your friends and family (and your doctors) will have the information they need to make the choices you would want.
It can also help to think about how much planning now could help your loved ones in the future. An ACD helps take some of the stress away from your loved ones at a difficult time.
If you are older or frail, have a chronic illness, or are experiencing any cognitive impairment creating an ACD is particularly crucial.
The five key parts to an ACD
An ACD can be a strange document to write. To make it easier for you, start by jotting down a few key points under these four important topics:
- what type/s of treatment you do or don’t want
- what quality of life you are happy with
- whether or not you want to appoint an attorney
- information around any existing health conditions or allergies
- your religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that might affect your health care.
You can be as detailed as you like when describing your wishes. For example, you may write that you want any treatment available or maybe you list the procedures that you do not want performed on you.
Remember too that you will need a health care professional, and in some states, another eligible witness to sign your ACD for it to be legally valid. Our lawyers are here to help you prepare your ACD, ensuring that it is legally sound.
Is there another name for an Advance Care Directive?
Depending on which state you live in an ACD might be called something a little different. In:
- QLD and WA it's called an Advance Health Directive
- NSW, SA, TAS and VIC it's called an Advance Care Directive
- ACT it's called a Health Direction
- NT it’s called an Advance Personal Plan.
Now, if you move to a different state your ACD may not stay valid. For example, if you move to the ACT, NSW or TAS, advance care planning documents from other states will not legally be recognised. So, if you think you might move interstate in the future, we recommend checking with an advance care expert to ensure your medical wishes will always be valid.
Who can make an ACD?
Once you turn 18 and you have full decision-making capacity you can make an Advance Care Directive. Full decision-making capacity means that you can:
- freely and voluntarily make health care decisions
- adequately communicate your decisions
- show that you understand your decisions and their consequences
- show that you understand the contents of your ACD.
How to make an ACD?
Before you write anything down, take some quiet time to consider what's important to you. It can also be a good idea to discuss your thoughts with close friends and family, and to have a expert lawyer prepare the document with you to ensure it's legally sound.
Do you need to lodge your Advance Care Directive somewhere?
The short answer is, no. You don't need to lodge your ACD with an authority. We will store your AHD for you in a safe and secure place, ensuring you and your family have access if and when it's needed. We also recommend giving a copy to someone you're close to, like a family member or even your doctor.
When should you make an ACD?
As soon as possible is the best time to write your ACD, while you're healthy and before you experience a critical health condition. Some situations might make completing an ACD more urgent, for example:
- you are going in for major surgery
- you have a medical condition that could affect your decision-making ability or cause serious complications in the event of an accident, such as heart or kidney disease, asthma or diabetes
- you are elderly or nearing the end of your life.
How can a lawyer help you with the ACD process?
Even though an ACD isn't a legal document and you don't need a lawyer to ensure it's legally binding, a lawyer can still help.
At Maurice Blackburn we can help you:
- understand how your ACD relates to other important documents like your Will and Enduring Power of Attorney
- articulate and word your wishes in the most effective way.
Come in to see your local team today or give us a call to discuss.
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- A standard Will
- Enduring Power of Attorney
- Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker
- Advance Care Directive
- Statement of Wishes
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