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New Framework For Advance Care Planning And End Of Life Wishes

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By Deborah Kliger, Lawyer, MST Lawyers

In November 2016 the Victorian Parliament passed the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (“the Act”). The Act, which will come into effect on 12 March 2018, creates the first legal framework for Advance Care Directives in Victoria.  These laws are designed to preserve a person’s values and health care preferences should they lose decision-making capacity.

The key changes

Under the existing legislation, a person can make an ‘Advance Care Plan’ giving non-binding instructions about future medical treatment for a current condition.

The new regime will allow Victorians who are of sound mind to make ‘Advance Care Directives’ giving legally binding instructions as to:

  1. the medical treatment they want (or do not want) to receive for current or future conditions; and  
  2. their personal preferences and values, which are to form the basis of any medical treatment decision a doctor or medical attorney makes on their behalf. For example, a person could direct that they do not want any life-prolonging treatment if they reach a point where they can no longer recognise family members.

The new laws also enable individuals to appoint a ‘support person’ to assist them in making medical treatment decisions. While a support person does not have the power to make decisions, their role includes:

  1. Supporting the person who appointed them to make, communicate or give effect to medical treatment decisions; and
  2. Representing the interests of that person in respect of their medical treatment (including when that person does not have decision-making capacity)

Take home messages

Under the new legal framework, individuals will be able to make Advance Care Directives giving binding instructions, and indicating their values and preferences, for future medical treatment. The incoming laws will also allow individuals to appoint a support person to assist them in making medical decisions.  These changes are aimed at protecting Victorians’ dignity and autonomy.

To effectively plan your future medical and personal care, we strongly recommend having up to date Enduring Powers of Attorney (Medical, Personal and Financial).

If you have any queries about Advance Care Directives, Enduring Powers of Attorney or any other Wills and Estates matter,  please contact our Wills and Estates team by email or phone +61 3 8540 0200.