Advance Health Directive

The Advance Health Directive is a legal document which outlines what’s important to you about your medical treatment and care in the event that you can’t make or communicate decisions. The Advance Health Directive records which treatments you would want or not want when facing certain medical situations.

To complete an Advance Health Directive, you must make an appointment to see your doctor who will explain the treatments and options noted on the form, and importantly, the likely medical scenarios if these treatments are suggested to you.

Using an Advance Health Directive is one tool to help people close to you — family, carers and health care providers — to be aware of what is important to you. It can help make sure that any decisions they may need to make for you are consistent with your values, beliefs and preferences.

If you have completed an Enduring Power of Attorney, you may have chosen someone to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatments, but you could also use an Advance Health Directive to describe what you would want if you have specific health care choices or complex requirements.

If you have both an Advance Health Directive and an attorney nominated for making health care decisions, your medical team will look first at your Advance Health Directive to see your treatment choices and any special conditions you mention. If your current medical situation is not covered by any particular wishes, they will ask your attorney to say what you would have wanted.

If you haven’t documented your wishes in an Advance Health Directive or Enduring Power of Attorney and your medical team needs to make a decision, they will refer to your Statutory Health Attorney, a role automatically applied to the person closest to you.

The Advance Health Directive has a section where you can say whether you want to donate organ and tissues or not. You can also use an Enduring Power of Attorney to explain your choice regarding organ donation.

However, we strongly advise that you don’t rely solely on these documents to advise others of your wishes. Ideally, you would also register your wishes on the official organ donation website and talk to family and close friends to make sure they understand your wishes because they may be consulted by medical teams if the situation arises.

The overall process of making and communicating your wishes about the care you would want at the end of life is often called Advance Care Planning which should be a routine part of a person's health care.

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