Taking control of medical decisions

Wednesday 17 April 2019
Shyla Sivanas

Preparing for a time when you are not as fit an able as you are today can be a daunting task.

Nobody wants to think about a time when they are unable to make their own decisions. Planning for the future, however, is an important part of making sure that your loved ones know what to do when the worst happens.

The law enables you to appoint someone to make decisions about your medical treatment if you become physically or mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself.

If you do not make an appointment, you might not be able to choose who makes the medical decisions on your behalf in the future. This could lead to conflict between your loved ones over who should make the decisions for you. It could even lead to the Courts appointing a guardian to make those decisions for you.

Clearing the confusion

On 12 March 2018, the law changed to give individuals more freedom about the medical treatment they want to receive in the future.

However, the change in law has resulted in some confusion as to whether someone should be appointing a “Medical Power of Attorney” or “Medical Treatment Decision Maker” or whether they should create an “Advance Care Directive”.  

Medical Power of Attorney

If you made an enduring medical power of attorney before the law changed on 12 March 2018, it does not need to be amended. It will still be valid under the new law.

The individual you appointed as a ‘medical attorney’ will still be able to give and withhold consent to medical treatment decisions if you are unable to make that decision for yourself in the future.

If you had not created an enduring medical power of attorney before 12 March 2018, you will no longer be able to create one under the new law. You are still able to create enduring powers of attorney for your personal and financial matters but not for any medical matters. 

Medical Treatment Decision Maker

Under the new law, you appoint a “Medical Treatment Decision Maker” instead of a “Medical Power of Attorney”.

Much like a medical power of attorney, a medical treatment decision maker will legally be able to make medical treatment decisions for you if you are not able to do so yourself in the future.

Advance Care Directives

Another big change is the ability to create “Advance Care Directives” which gives you freedom and control over decisions that are made about you when you do not have capacity to make them yourself.

An Advance Care Directive can include:

  • Instructional directives which allow you to make binding decision on whether you consent to or refuse certain types of medical treatment in the future. For example, you could make an instructional directive that you refuse chemotherapy or refuse organ donation.
  • Value directives on the other hand allow you to make your preferences and values for medical treatment clear for your medical treatment decision maker. For example, you could make a value directive that you would prefer to take certain types of medication over another.

Appointing a medical treatment decision maker or creating an advance care directive is an important step in taking control of your future.

If your loved one has been injured in an accident or at work and is unable to make their own decisions, call our free Adviceline on (03) 9321 9988 for advice on any medical appointments or directives they have and any other entitlements they might have.

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