NSW Advance Care Directive (Medical)

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What is an Advance Care Directive?

An Advance Care Directive sets out your wishes with regard to your personal healthcare + treatment including important decisions about whether you will permit or refuse certain treatments, in the event you become seriously ill or injured and become incapable of making or communicating such decisions.

Advance Care Planning

In order to make fully informed decisions it is critical that you take the time to go through an in-depth Advance Care Planning process.

Your Advance Care Directive will be the output you create as a result of stepping through the process in detail.

This will necessarily involve detailed discussions with your doctor, your own research and seeking independent opinions where you deem it is necessary.

As medical treatments and options change over time, it is important that you revisit + consider your Advance Care Planning on an annual basis.

Who can make one?

An Advance Care Directive can only be made by you as an adult with decision-making capacity.

If it is valid, the NSW Supreme Court has held that it must be followed.

Health Professionals + family members, even your legally appointed guardian have no authority to override your valid Advance Care Directive.

How do I make an Advance Care Directive?

In NSW, an Advance Care Directive can be verbal or written.

Unlike in other states, in NSW there is no specific form to use for an Advance Care Directive.

An Advance Care Directive can simply be written on a piece of paper.

It does not need to be witnessed in order to be legally enforceable.

In an abundance of caution, it is always recommended that your Advance Care Directive be written, signed + dated.

This will help to ensure that your wishes are clearly recorded and can be strictly followed.

Select your preferred format

If you want to make an Advance Care Directive you can choose to:

➲ Use the Advance Care Directive form (scroll down to the bottom of the booklet) developed by NSW Health;

➲ Use another form, such as one of those available from www.planningaheadtools.com.au;

➲ Write a letter or statement about your wishes; or

➲ Tell someone that you trust and who knows you well.

Person Responsible / Substitute Decision Maker

It is important to think about who you would like to make healthcare decisions for you if you are seriously ill or injured and can no longer make decisions.

Some people choose a family member or close friend or appoint an Enduring Guardian/s.

If it’s not clear in your Advance Care Directive who this person or people are, your doctor will ask someone else to make the decision for you.

This person is known as the Person Responsible.

A Person Responsible is not always a relative.

You may also hear people use the term Substitute Decision Maker.

When does my Advance Care Directive apply?

Doctors and health care professionals will only look at your Advance Care Directive if you are unable to make or communicate decisions about your healthcare and treatment.

Your Person Responsible must refer to your Advance Care Directive before making any medical or health decisions.

Where should I keep my Advance Care Directive?

You should keep your Advance Care Directive in a place that is easy for you or someone else to find it.

Best Practice suggests you keep a copy with you, or keep a card in your wallet that lets people know that you have an Advance Care Directive and where it can be found.

It is a good idea to leave a copy with your Person Responsible, family and/or carer, doctor and/or healthcare facility.

Make sure you keep track of the locations of all of the copies. In order to minimise the possibility of an older version being followed you will need to replace all of the copies with your updated version (if any).

Supporting Resources:

Making an Advance Care Directive published by NSW Ministry of Health (last updated August 2019).

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