Healthy living

Advance Health Directives

An Advance Health Directive (AHD) is a legal document that contains your decisions about your future health treatment.

Listen to information about AHDs (MP3 2.9MB, 7:12 min) or read the audio transcript.

You can make an AHD in which you either provide consent, or refuse consent, to future treatments. For example, you may say that you want or do not want a certain treatment. An AHD can only be completed while you have the ability – or ‘mental capacity’ – to make and communicate decisions. As soon as you lose the capacity to make and communicate decisions, you are no longer able to complete or modify an AHD. No one else can complete an AHD for you once you have lost capacity.

Why should I make an Advance Health Directive?

You have the right to make decisions about your own health care and treatment. But what will happen if you're not able to make your choices known? Some people, due to personal experience, religious beliefs or advice from loved ones, feel it is important to specify treatments they want, or do not want to receive in the future. You do not have to prepare an AHD – it is a very personal choice. It is up to you to decide whether completing an completing an AHD is right for your or not.

What if I don’t want to make an Advance Health Directive?

If you have chosen not to make an AHD, a treatment decision will be made on your behalf if you lose the capacity to make the decision for yourself.

Many people believe that their next-of-kin (father, mother, husband, wife or children) has authority to give or refuse consent for their treatment. This is untrue.

There is a hierarchy of decision makers (treatment hierarchy) that health professionals are required to follow, which is designed to give the authority to those who are most likely to know your beliefs and wishes.

If a person identified as being a decision maker (also known as the person responsible) is not contactable or readily available or declines to make a decision, health professionals need to contact the next person responsible in the hierarchy of decision makers. The treatment decision will be made by (in the following order of priority). Please refer to the diagram below, Hierarchy of decision makers, also known as the treatment hierarchy.

If your treating health professional does not acknowledge (or accept) your partner as your decision maker, your partner should contact the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) (external site) on 1300 306 017 (local call rates from land line only).

View the hierarchy of decision makers (PDF 69.6KB).

Can I be forced to sign an Advance Health Directive against my will?

A treatment decision contained in an AHD which was not made voluntarily or which was made as a result of an inducement or coercion will be invalid.

In circumstances where it is suspected that an AHD was not made voluntarily or was influenced by inducement or coercion, it would be appropriate to make an application to the State Administrative Tribunal (external site) for a determination of (in)validity.

Where to get help

Advance Health Directives

WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network, Advance Care Planning Telephone Support

Phone: 9222 2300

Email: acp@health.wa.gov.au

Enduring Powers of Guardianship

Office of the Public Advocate

Phone: 1300 858 455 (local call rates from land line only)

Fax: 9278 7333

Email: opa@justice.wa.gov.au

Remember

  • An AHD is a legal written document, containing your decisions about your future health treatment.
  • Anyone over 18 can prepare an AHD – even healthy people prepare AHDs.
  • If you lose your mental capacity, you are not legally allowed to prepare an AHD and nobody else can do it for you.

Acknowledgements

Cancer and Palliative Care Network


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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