No one wants to think about what will happen if you become unwell and you are unable to make your own decisions in the future. However, these matters are really important to consider because thinking about these issues now means you can choose who makes medical decisions on your behalf in the future if the situation arises that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
The law in Victoria changed last year and prior to 12 March 2018 we would have prepared an Enduring Power of Attorney (Medical Treatment) to appoint somebody to act on your behalf in respect to medical decisions. If you have made this document prior to 12 March 2018 then it remains valid.
Since 12 March 2018, the document required to appoint someone to act on your behalf in regards to medical treatment is called an “Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker”.
You should appoint a person who you trust to give or to withhold consent for treatment if you are unable to make that decision yourself to be your medical treatment decision maker. Giving someone this authority can make it easier on your family and friends who may have differing opinions on what should be done. You can appoint multiple decision makers, although you will need to decide the order in which to appoint those decision makers to be listed in the document.
You also now have the ability to make an Advance Care Directive which is a document that makes your wishes regarding medical treatment known by putting them in writing while you have the capacity to communicate them. This document is required to be witnessed by two witnesses (one who must be a doctor) and can assist your doctor, other medical staff and your medical treatment decision maker to understand your wishes.
Importantly, the Advanced Care Directive can include Instructional Directives which are binding. This means that medical staff must follow your directions- for example, you may decide you do not wish to be resuscitated if you have serious brain damage and suffer a cardiac arrest, and this can be included in your Instructional Directives.
The Advanced Care Directive can also include Value directives which are not binding but make your values and preferences clear to your Medical Treatment Decision Maker and medical team- for example, you may be willing to be considered for organ and tissue donation and recognise that medical interventions may be necessary for donation to take place.
Our lawyers have extensive knowledge in these areas and can assist you to prepare both an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker and an Advanced Care Directive. It is crucial to put these plans in place while you can, as often when a serious accident or illness occurs it can be too late and our ability to assist you and your family is limited.