NEW! Free advance care planning workshops in Perth.
Do your family, friends and doctor know what medical treatment and care you would want if you became seriously ill and could not speak for yourself?
Do they know what decisions to make on your behalf?
Come along to a FREE workshop and learn about how you can make your future health care wishes known through advance care planning.
Workshops will be held in Perth from October – November: dates to be advised. Check our events page http://palliativecarewa.asn.au/site/calendar-of-events/ or register your interest Contact Us
What is advance care planning?
Advance care planning is the process of writing down directions and plans for your healthcare in advance. The directions come into effect when you are no longer able to make decisions or plans for yourself.
The results of many scientific studies [State of the science review of advance care planning models – Street & Ottmann, LaTrobe University, 2006] suggest that there is a better chance your advance care plans will be respected if you:
- make realistic and precise plans in consultation with your doctor
- appoint and empower someone to make decisions on your behalf
- discuss and review your plans regularly with your healthcare providers and those close to you to make sure they are up-to-date and well understood
- provide copies of any planning documents to your doctors, your hospital, your family and carers.
The Western Australian Department of Health and the Western Australian Office of the Public Advocate publish excellent detailed guides to advance care planning which are available online.
Consent to medical treatment
All Australians with the capacity to make legal decisions have a right to refuse medical treatment (including resuscitation, artificial feeding and hydration, antibiotics etc). In anticipation of a time when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves, people often use ‘living wills’ to record treatment decisions (both refusing treatment or consenting to treatment) or appoint family-members or friends to make decisions on their behalf.
What is a ‘living will’ or Advance Health Directive?
‘Living will’ is a general term. In Western Australia living wills are called Advance Health Directives. An Advance Health Directive:
- records decisions (refusing or consenting to medical treatment) and plans about your future healthcare
- comes into effect when you are unable to make your own decisions
- can be made if you have legal decision making capacity and are at least 18 years old.
The operation of Advance Health Directives is governed by legislation called the WA Guardianship and Administration Act 1990, which was amended in by Parliament in June 2008.
What is an Enduring Power of Guardianship?
If you have legal decision making capacity, you can use the Enduring Power of Guardianship to appoint a person or people who are empowered to make healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to make your own decisions. The operation of the Enduring Power of Guardianship is also governed by the WA Guardianship and Administration Act 1990.
Can I use both the Advance Health Directive and the Enduring Power of Guardianship?
You can complete both an Advance Health Directive and an Enduring Power of Guardianship under Western Australian law. If your Advance Health Directive applies to the treatment decision that must be made in your particular case, when the time comes, the Advance Health Directive must be followed. If your Advance Health Directive is not relevant or does not cover the situation that you are facing, then the person to whom you have granted your Enduring Power of Guardianship would make the decisions.
What if I don’t complete an Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Guardianship but lose decision-making capacity?
The Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 lays out a list of people ‘persons responsible’ who would be asked to make a decision on your behalf if you are unable to do so for yourself and if you have not completed an Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Guardianship. The list includes:
- spouse or defacto partner if that person is living with you
- your nearest relative (child, parent or sibling) who maintains a close personal relationship with you
- any other person who maintains a close personal relationship with you.
What is an Enduring Power of Attorney?
An Enduring Power of Attorney is a document in which you can appoint a person who is empowered to make financial decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to make your own decisions.
The operation of the Enduring Power of Attorney is also governed by the WA Guardianship and Administration Act 1990.
What is ‘legal decision making capacity’?
In general legal terms, a person has ‘decision making capacity’ if he or she is:
- over 18 years in age
- able to understand the facts involved in a decision
- able to appreciate the significance of a decision
- capable of weighing risks and benefits and choosing between options.
Note that this is a complex area and that is sometimes difficult to determine whether a person has decision making capacity. The law maps out processes to determine capacity where it is not clear whether a person is capable of making ‘reasonable judgements in respect of matters relating to his or her person.’
Capacity is assessed in terms of each new decision.
Will my advance care planning documents from elsewhere in Australia be effective in Western Australia?
If you have completed advance care planning documents in another state or territory of Australia these will normally be respected in Western Australia – the final decision would be made by the Western Australian State Administrative Tribunal.
Can I register my Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Guardianship?
There is no register of Advance Health Directives or Enduring Power of Guardianships in Western Australia.
You may be able to record your information with the Medic Alert Foundation. Please note that you may be charged a fee for this service.
Where can I get more information?
To learn more about:
- the Advance Health Directive, call the Western Australia Department of Health on 08 9222 2300
- the Enduring Power of Guardianship or Enduring Power of Attorney, call the Western Australia Office of the Public Advocate on 1300 858 455 (and push 1 when prompted)
- advance care planning in general, read Palliative Care WA Inc’s Position Statement