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What is an advance care directive?

May 12, 2020 by Gessica Giordano

An advance care directive is a legal document made under the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) which makes a person’s wishes about medical treatment known.

An advance care directive may contain either or both an instructional directive and a values directive in relation to future medical treatment which can only be used when a person does not have decision making capacity.

An instructional directive provides legally binding instructions about future treatment a person consents to or refuses for current or future health conditions, for example, consenting to a heart bypass operation in specific circumstances.

An instructional directive should only be completed if the person knows the medical treatment they want or do not want as health practitioners are bound to follow the instructions, provided they are medically appropriate, lawful and not a breach of their professional code of practice.

A doctor should be consulted before completing an instructional directive as it could be acted on in situations the person has not considered, and it should be reviewed whenever a person’s medical or personal situation changes.

A values directive documents a person’s values and preferences for their medical treatment. The person’s medical treatment decision maker is required to first consider the person’s values directive when making decisions about their medical treatment to assist them in making decisions that reflect what the person would have wanted. It can specify things like what matters most in a person’s life such as living independently or unacceptable outcomes such as being unable to talk or walk.

To make an advance care directive, a person must have decision making capacity.

Making an advance care directive should be considered when making or updating a will, an enduring power of attorney or when appointing a medical treatment decision maker.


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