When meeting with clients for their testamentary affairs, we often end up talking about what is to happen if they become ill or have an accident and discuss Advance Care Directives, sometimes called Living Wills; here are some frequently asked questions:
Advanced Care Directives, What are they? Sometimes called a ‘living will’ (but not to be confused with a testamentary Will), an Advanced Care Directive is a statement of your wishes and values which need to be considered before medical treatment decisions are made on your behalf. This can be a written record of your preferences for future care. It can state your beliefs and values, directions about care and treatment.
Do I need one? Imagine you are a patient in an intensive care unit in hospital. In the middle of the ward is a table. Around the table are your doctors, nurses, a social worker and perhaps your Enduring Guardian, they are discussing you and are making decisions about you. You are not able to be at the meeting, you are in bed, unable to communicate.
With an Advanced Care Directive (ACD), you can effectively put yourself at the table and enter the discussion. You can let those people know what they need to consider when they make decisions about you, taking into account your concerns, values, beliefs and preferences.
You are heard at the meeting.
I already have an Enduring Guardianship document, do I need an Advance Care Directive? Is this different from an Enduring Guardianship?
They are two different documents. The Enduring Guardianship is governed by legislation and is the legal document which gives the appointed person (or people) power to make health and lifestyle decisions.
Your ACD includes the ‘nitty gritty’, details of your thoughts, beliefs, values, preferences and wishes about treatment, care arrangements, refusal of treatment and end of life planning.
It is not used for financial decisions, that document is a Power of Attorney. Neither is the ACD any part of your Will (despite the fact it is sometimes called a living Will). The Advance Care Directive forms vary between states and territories. Your solicitor and doctor can assist you with an ACD document. In New South Wales there is currently no legally prescribed form of ACD.