As the name suggests an Advanced Health Directive is a document which contains instructions about the specific health treatments that the document maker wishes to have performed or withheld in the event that that person requires medical treatment but is not able to communicate his or her specific wishes at that time.
Under a standard Enduring Power of Attorney, the Attorney appointed has the power to authorise the switching off of life support and if circumstances allow, the power to give consent to the provision of medical care which might be recommended from a Doctor or other Health Care Provider.
However, in circumstances where prior conferral with the Attorney is not possible, consent to the withholding of medical treatment is an option or certain cultural/religious/personal beliefs require medical treatment to deviate from standard practices, Advanced Health Directives can be a very good idea.
Under an Advanced Health Directive you can nominate ahead of time whether or not you require for example artificial ventilation, resuscitation, nutrition, administering of antibiotics, blood transfusion, organ donation and of course ultimately the switching off of life support.
If you have already made an Enduring Power of Attorney then the making of an Advanced Health Directive does not revoke or otherwise affect the validity of the Enduring Power of Attorney, it simply gives specialised and specific instruction about these specific health issues and basically acts to bind the person appointed under the Power of Attorney to act in a way which is consistent with those express wishes.
To make an Advanced Health Directive, you need to use the form which is prescribed under the Queensland Powers of Attorney Act. That form has to be signed by the maker in the presence of a Justice of the Peace or a Solicitor who then certifies that the maker fully understood what they were doing (ie. had full mental capacity). To be valid however, a certificate also needs to be completed on the form from a Doctor who certifies that he/she has also given the directive maker advice on the medical implications of the decisions which have been made.
For most folk, the present day form of the standard Enduring Power of Attorney is sufficient to cover the possibility of an unexpected health crisis. If however, you are likely to be affected by health issues that will require the delivery of significant medical treatment that may occur at times when you are mentally incapable of making informed choices about treatment options then, preparation of an Advanced Health Directive in those circumstances is certainly something to be recommended.
Michael Zande is the Principal of Zande Law, Solicitors with 20 years experience in practice. Michael has had extensive experience in drafting of Wills and Administration of Deceased Estates. Also on staff are Janelle Imhoff and Pat Walker who between them have almost 40 years experience in these areas.
The information in this newsletter is merely a guide and is not a full explanation of the law. This firm cannot take responsibility for any action readers take based on this information. When making decisions that could affect your legal rights, please contact us for professional advice.