Advanced care directives

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When we see people to deal with estate planning, we often get questions about advanced care directives or “living wills”. In Australia, the typical language is advanced care directive. Unfortunately, advanced care directives aren’t well known or understood. However, they do exist and are becoming more common.

How they work varies from state to state but in New South Wales, they work on the basis that you have the right to refuse consent to treatment in advance of needing the treatment. Basically, you can make decisions today about what treatment you will accept and what treatment you won't accept, in the future.

Advanced care directives often go hand in hand with an Appointment of Enduring Guardian but they are different. In an advanced care directive, you make decisions for yourself. In an Appointment of Enduring Guardian, you appoint someone else to make decisions if you can’t. It’s common for your Appointment to give your guardians information about what treatment you do or don’t want but ultimately they still make the decision for you.

Advanced care directives in New South Wales are governed by a specific piece of legislation which sets out what they should contain or how they should be done. They are usually done with health care providers rather than lawyers and they can be very specific or very general depending on your personal situation.

If you want more information, there is excellent information available from Advance Care Planning Australian.