Decisions, decisions, decisions

An advance health directive is a document in which you give directions about your future health care.  It only comes into effect if you are temporarily or permanently unable to make your own decisions.

Anyone over the age of 18 who is capable of understanding the nature and effect of their health care decisions can make an advance health directive.

If you have strong or definite views about how your treatment should be handled under particular situations then you would be wise to have an advance health directive in place.

Why should I make such a directive?
People who are seriously ill are often unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate their wishes at the very time when many critical decisions need to be made.  It is wise to make your wishes known now, before any urgent matters arise.

What should I consider before making an advance health directive?
Carefully consider what you want your medical treatment to achieve if you become very ill. For example, if treatment should prolong your life, what level of quality of life would you find acceptable.

What issues can I cover in this directive?
•  General directions about particular treatment you do not wish to have, special medical conditions your health care providers should know about, for example diabetes and allergy to medications; and any religious beliefs that could affect your treatment.

•  Directions as to treatment you want or do not want if your condition is terminal, incurable, irreversible or likely to leave you in an ongoing  condition that is unacceptable to you.

• Whether you would want particular types of medical intervention to keep you alive in various medical conditions, for example coma or severe brain damage, such as emergency measures to sustain your heart and lungs, a machine to keep you breathing, and artificial feeding.

•  That only palliative care be given to you if you are in the last stages of an incurable illness, to keep you as comfortable and pain-free as possible.

What can not be covered in this directive?
Euthanasia is illegal in Queensland. You cannot give instructions for your doctor to hasten your death.

What happens if I don’t have an advance health directive?
Your attorney for personal/health matters or your statutory health attorney - this could be your spouse, a carer, a close friend or relative - will make decisions about your health treatment.

Dr John de Groot is Special Counsel at de Groots Wills and Estate Lawyers. Visit degroots.com.au  

Aged care services change
Older Australians will have greater choice and control over their aged care services under proposed changes to aged care legislation.

In last year’s Budget, the Australian Government announced significant reforms to strengthen the aged care system to ensure older Australians would receive further support to remain living at home.

As part of the first phase of these home care reforms, from February next year funding will follow the consumer not the provider, allowing people to choose the care which suits their individual needs and to then direct funding to that provider.

Health Minister Sussan Ley said that with Australians living longer, demand on aged care was changing.
“The changes will allow greater flexibility for the consumer,” she said.