ADVANCE CARE PLANNING (ACP) MADE SIMPLE
There is a great deal of information about ACP and it can be difficult to get your head around it.
DON’T BE DAUNTED: if you believe that you should be able to make your own end of life choices, it is vitally important to take steps to ensure those choices are respected.
- Think about what you want. At the moment voluntary assisted dying is not a choice you can make lawfully, but you can decide what treatment you want, or don’t want, in certain circumstances.
The best way to record your wishes if you live in Western Australia is to sign an advance health directive or AHD. This can be found on the Department of Health website at www.health.wa.gov.au/advancecareplanning
- You can also if you wish sign an enduring power of guardianship or EPG. This gives someone you trust and who knows you well the power to make personal and lifestyle decisions for you. It can also specify treatment decisions but if you have an AHD this will override the EPG if there is an inconsistency between the two. The EPG form can be found on the Office of the Public Advocate website at publicadvocate.wa.gov.au/E/enduring_power_of_guardianship.aspx
- NB: The AHD and EPG only become effective if you no longer have the capacity to make your own decisions. Either or both of them can be amended or revoked at any time.
MAKING SURE YOUR CHOICES ARE RESPECTED
- The AHD is a legally binding document provided you had the capacity to understand what you were signing and it is properly witnessed by 2 witnesses. The witnesses must be authorised to sign statutory declarations and must witness the document in your presence and in the presence of each other.
Authorised witnesses include doctors, lawyers, bank managers, teachers, nurses, JPs, priests and many others -for a full list see https://courts.justice.wa.gov.au/_files/Professions_witness_statutory_declarations.pdf
- The AHD is your voice. It overrides any other contrary opinion or directive, including those of your family members or medical practitioners. However it is very helpful to discuss your choices with these people and, if possible, get them to understand and accept your decisions, even if they don’t agree with them.
- Your doctor in particular is an important part of this process, not to influence your decisions but to ensure that what you want is clearly and comprehensibly expressed in your AHD. Once your have finalised your AHD it is also convenient to get your doctor and one of his or her colleagues to witness it.
- Keep the original of your AHD in a safe place and give signed copies of your AHD (and EPG if you have one) to your closest family members, your nominated guardian (if applicable) and your doctor.
- Make sure that your doctor’s medical practice records your AHD electronically if your medical records are to be stored on the MyHealth database. This will ensure that anyone who needs to know if you have an AHD can access this information.
Alternatively you can register with MyHealth online at https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/for-you-your-family/before-you-register and upload your AHD yourself.
- The other way of doing this is to carry an AHD alert card in your wallet.
Some of you may already have signed a living will. This is also an effective way of communicating your wishes about treatment if you have lost the capacity to do so yourself. If you already have a Living Will you should follow the steps under “MAKING SURE YOUR CHOICES ARE RESPECTED” above.
An AHD will override a Living Will if you have both and they are inconsistent in any respect.