An Advanced Health Directive, also known as an AHD, is a legal document that allows individuals to plan and make decisions about their future health care. It is designed to ensure that their wishes are respected and followed in the event they are unable to communicate or make decisions due to a medical condition or terminal illness. It is an essential part of your estate planning.
The AHD enables individuals to specify their preferences for treatments, medical procedures, and life-sustaining treatment, such as life support or resuscitation. It provides instructions on what kind of medical care they want or do not want in specific circumstances. For example, a person may choose to refuse certain treatments that prolong life if they believe it will negatively impact their quality of life.
Having an AHD gives individuals the power to have control over their own healthcare decisions, even if they are unable to convey their wishes at the time. It provides peace of mind knowing that their preferences regarding medical treatment will be upheld. This can greatly reduce stress for both the individual and their loved ones during difficult and emotional times.
In Queensland, an AHD must comply with specific requirements. It must be in writing on the required Advance Health Directive form, signed and dated by the person making the directive, and executed by a doctor, and an eligible witness who is either a justice of the peace, a lawyer, or Commissioner for Declarations. It is crucial to follow these requirements to ensure the AHD is legally valid and enforceable. The Queensland government has provided an Advanced Health Directive Explanatory Guide which can be found here to assist.
An AHD covers a wide range of health care decisions, including treatment preferences, cultural beliefs, and personal matters. It can include instructions for specific medical conditions, such as irreversible brain damage. The document may also appoint a person, known as the attorney for health matters, to make decisions on behalf of the individual if they are unable to do so themselves.
Your AHD instructions regarding any life sustaining measures will be followed if you do not have capacity and one of the following apply:
When it comes to healthcare decisions, it’s crucial to understand the difference between medical treatment and life-sustaining measures. These terms often come up in discussions about advance health directives and end-of-life care. To make informed choices about your healthcare preferences, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what each term entails.
Medical treatment refers to any interventions, procedures, or therapies implemented to address a person’s medical condition or symptoms. It encompasses a wide range of interventions, from medication administration and surgeries to physical therapy and counselling. Medical treatment aims to alleviate symptoms, cure illnesses, or improve a person’s health and well-being.
On the other hand, life-sustaining measures are interventions designed to prolong life, specifically in critical or terminal situations. These measures are often employed when a person’s condition reaches a point where their body can no longer sustain vital functions independently. Examples of life-sustaining measures include the use of ventilators to support breathing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to restart the heart, and artificial nutrition and hydration to provide sustenance.
When creating an Advance Health Directive, it’s crucial to consider both medical treatment and life-sustaining measures. You may have preferences regarding specific medical treatments that you want or do not want to receive. For example, you may prefer to refuse invasive procedures or aggressive treatments that have low chances of success or may significantly impact your quality of life.
Similarly, you might have preferences about life-sustaining measures in different scenarios. Some individuals may choose to have all available life-sustaining measures undertaken to prolong their life in any circumstances, whereas others may opt for a more limited approach. It’s essential to communicate your preferences regarding CPR, ventilation, or artificial nutrition and hydration to ensure your wishes are respected.
Discussing your preferences with your healthcare provider or an attorney for health matters can help you understand the options available to you and ensure that your Advance Health Directive accurately reflects your wishes. You may also consider discussing your decisions with your loved ones, so they are aware of your wishes and can support you in upholding them.
Having an Advanced Health Directive is an important step in safeguarding your future health care preferences.
One of the significant benefits of having an Advanced Health Directive is that it gives you control over your medical care. It allows you to make informed decisions about the kind of treatments and interventions you would like to receive or refuse, based on your personal beliefs, values, and medical condition. By clearly stating your preferences in advance, you can ensure that your healthcare providers and substitute decision-makers understand your wishes and make decisions accordingly.
An Advanced Health Directive also provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones. By documenting your preferences, you are relieving your family members or friends of the burden of making difficult decisions on your behalf. They can have confidence in knowing that they are honouring your wishes and providing the care that aligns with your values. This can reduce potential conflicts and emotional distress during times of medical crisis.
This legal document also acts as a guide for healthcare professionals to provide you with the appropriate treatment. An Advanced Health Directive ensures that your attending physicians and medical team are aware of your preferences and can take them into consideration when determining the most suitable care plan. It helps foster open communication between you and your healthcare providers, ensuring that your treatment aligns with your goals and preferences.
In Queensland specifically, an Advanced Health Directive is recognized by law and Queensland Health, providing an added layer of protection for your wishes. It also allows you to appoint a health attorney who can make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This appointed person should be someone you trust, who understands your values and will advocate for your best interests.
Furthermore, having an Advanced Health Directive can be particularly crucial in situations involving cultural beliefs and values. It ensures that your healthcare decisions respect your cultural background and faith, providing the necessary guidance to healthcare professionals in honouring your traditions and preferences.
It’s recommended to review and update your Advanced Health Directive periodically (every two years), especially if there have been changes in your medical condition, treatment options, or personal beliefs. This will ensure that your directive remains current and accurately reflects your wishes.
While an Advanced Health Directive provides guidance, it may not cover every possible scenario or circumstance. In situations where your wishes are not explicitly outlined, healthcare providers and substitute decision-makers may need to make decisions based on their understanding of your values and best interests.
Queensland Health recommends that individuals keep their original document in a safe and accessible place, and provide copies to their appointed attorney for health matters, substitute decision-makers, and healthcare providers.
An Enduring Power of Attorney is able to appoint an attorney for financial matters and for personal and health matters. If you have an Advanced Health Directive the wishes contained in that will override the authority of an attorney to make health decisions for you in those end stages of life.
If you do not have an AHD then decisions relating to your health care, matters may be decided by your Statutory Health Attorney. A Statutory Health Attorney could be your spouse or even a close friend. The risk with such an arrangement is that these people may not know what your wishes or preferences are and so provide instructions to health providers which you would disagree with.
Advanced Health Directives commonly cover a wide range of medical conditions. These may include terminal illnesses, irreversible brain injury, and other serious health conditions that may require life-sustaining measures or long-term care.
It’s crucial to be as specific as possible when outlining your medical conditions in an Advanced Health Directive. General statements such as “no life-sustaining measures” or “do everything possible” can be open to interpretation and may not accurately reflect your true wishes. Instead, consider providing clear instructions about the types of treatments or interventions you would like to receive or refuse in specific medical situations. This will better guide healthcare providers and substitute decision-makers in following your preferences.
When it comes to making decisions about health care, cultural beliefs play an important role in shaping individuals’ preferences and choices. Cultural values, traditions, and religious views can influence how individuals perceive and approach health care decisions, making it crucial to consider these factors in the planning process.
Cultural beliefs regarding health care can vary greatly among different communities and backgrounds. For example, some cultures prioritize holistic, natural remedies, while others place more emphasis on medical interventions and technology. Understanding these cultural perspectives is vital for health professionals and substitute decision-makers to provide culturally sensitive care.
The easiest way to make sure that your doctor or a hospital is aware of your AHD is to upload it to your My Health Record. This way it is always available to your health professionals in an emergency. You can also provide your doctor with a certified copy to place on your medical file. A copy can also be provided to your local hospital so that they can add it to your patient file.
You should be aware that a doctor or other health provider does not always have to follow the instructions you have laid out in your AHD. They do not have to follow your instructions if they are not consistent with good medical practice or if they will not benefit you. A health care provider also do not have to follow your directions if they are unclear or where circumstances such as advances in medicine mean that your instructions are no longer appropriate.
You are able to change your AHD at any time as long as you have capacity. Once you have lost capacity your most recent AHD will remain in place and the instructions in it will be used to determine what medical treatment you will be provided with.
In conclusion, an Advanced Health Directive is a crucial legal document that allows individuals to take control of their healthcare decisions and ensure their preferences are respected and upheld by health care providers and guardianship laws.
Obtaining legal advice is highly recommended when creating a Queensland AHD to ensure it is valid and addresses all of the issues you believe are important to your healthcare.
If you are considering having and AHD or wish to know more, ReesLaw are experienced Advanced Health Care Lawyers, with many years’ experience in providing legal services. We can assist you with preparing a document which reflects your wishes and preferences. Call today to make an appointment on 4632 8484.
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