An Advance Health Directive allows you to plan what medical treatment or health care you would like in the event that you can no longer make such decisions for yourself.

You may no longer be capable of making decisions due to severe brain damage or alzheimer’s disease, for example.  It also enables you to appoint an ‘attorney’ for making decisions on your behalf regarding your health and personal matters.

This does not include making financial decisions on your behalf.  This can be arranged via a different form of ‘Power of Attorney’. (Please note: These two forms of statutory documents do not necessarily have to name the same person.)

You can use your Advance Health Directive to express your wishes in a general way, such as stating that you would want to receive all available treatment.

You can include relevant information about yourself that health professionals should know, such as –

  • special health conditions
  • allergies to medications
  • religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that could affect your care

Specific Instructions

You are able to give specific instructions about certain medical treatments. For instance, you might feel strongly about whether or not you want to receive life-sustaining measures to prolong your life such as –

  • cardio-pulmonary resuscitation – to keep your heart beating
  • assisted ventilation – to keep you breathing if your lungs stop working
  • artificial nutrition and hydration

You can use your Directive to outline your views about the quality of life that would be acceptable to you.  For instance, you might decide to specify that you would like life-sustaining measures withheld or withdrawn in certain situations, such as if you were to have –

  • a terminal illness for which there is no known cure nor chance of you recovering
  • severe and irreversible brain damage so that you are unable to communicate
  • an illness or injury so severe that there is no reasonable prospect that you will recover

How To Formalise Your Wishes

Once you are clear about your wishes for future treatment and care, it’s best to put it them down in writing. There are two preferred ways of doing this.

Advance Care Plan (ACP)

Advance Health Directive (AHD)

The essential difference between the two is legal.

Enduring Power of Guardianship (EPG)

Another document you should be aware of is the Enduring Power of Guardianship (EPG).

Once you have planned your future care you might like to ask another person to make decisions on your behalf, in situations where you are no longer capable of doing so.

The EPG gives that person the legal authority to make decisions in your best interest. There are special rules about appointing an EPG – this information is usually available from the various ‘Office of Public Advocate’ in each State or Territory.

What do I do with my plan?

Once you have finalised your plan you should keep it in a safe place and provide copies to your family and health professionals likely to be involved in your future care, for example your doctor.

Different Rules in Different States

The appropriate use of the ‘powers’ listed above can be quite confusing and the subject of change, so we would recommend that you follow up with further research (via our Useful Links section ), as to what is currently available within your particular State or Territory.