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What is an Advance Care Directive and what can they do that your family members can’t?

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What is an Advance Care Directive?

An Advanced Care Directive (ACD) is a legal document that specifies your healthcare and treatment wishes should you be in a position where you are unable to make this decision for yourself.

ACD’s came into place in 2014, replacing Enduring Power of Guardianship, Medical Power of Attorney and Anticipatory Directions. Find out more about how Advanced Care Directives replace Power of Guardianship

Why you should get an Advance Care Directive?

Clients often ask why they need an ACD when they believe that, if they are unable to make a decision about their medical treatment, health care, lifestyle, and accommodation, their family will make it for them.

The reason you should get an ACD is that when these decisions need to be made, in most cases medical and healthcare professionals will consult family members on their views, however, without an ACD they are not legally bound to do so.

Another reason you should get an ACD is that if your wishes conflict with the decisions of different family members, it could result in family conflict and disharmony.

When would an Advance Care Directive be relevant?

An ACD is relevant when you are unable to make a decision because you:

  • are unconscious or in a coma
  • are in the terminal phase of an illness
  • suffer from dementia or a similar condition
  • are being kept alive only with the assistance of artificial devices such as a life-support machine

In such a situation, your family may find comfort in the fact that your wishes are clearly recorded and carried out.

What does an Advance Care Directive do?

To avoid uncertainties and to minimise or avoid family conflict, an ACD can be completed and signed to give effect to your wishes.

In the ACD you can make specific directions regarding your preferences, accommodation, healthcare, end of life and lifestyle matters, or you can appoint Substitute Decision-Makers who would make these decisions for you.

There are different levels of care that can be included in the binding legal directives section of the document. To find out more read: Advanced Care Directives; the detail's important. 

Do I need an Advance Care Directive if I have nominated an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA)?

Yes you do still need an ACD even if you have nominated an EPA. An EPA is able to sign legal documentation on your behalf but is unable to make decisions regarding accommodation, healthcare and lifestyle matters. This is where you make specific directions in your ACD, or appoint a Substitute Decision-Maker to make these decisions for you. Find more about the difference between Power of Attorney and Advanced Care Directives

What happens in the absence of an Advance Care Directive?

In the absence of an ACD to refer to, family members may be largely at the whim of the treating doctor who may be prejudiced by his or her own beliefs or practices, which could differ from the views or beliefs of family members. Similarly, it could cause conflict between family members who have different preferences.

Making an Advance Care Directive

Making an ACD is not complex. Andersons Solicitors can guide you through the form and provide suggested wording if necessary. Once it is completed, you can be at ease knowing that your family members understand your wishes if you are no longer able to communicate with them.

Call Andersons now on 08 8238 6666 to arrange your Advanced Care Directive. 

Please note, this Blog is posted in Adelaide, South Australia by Andersons Solicitors. It relates to Australian Federal and South Australian legislation. Andersons Solicitors is a medium sized law firm servicing metropolitan Adelaide and regional South Australia across all areas of law for individuals and businesses.

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