Friday, November 13, 2009

Advance care directive

An advance health care directive is a document that states a person's wishes or directions regarding their future health care for various medical conditions.
It comes into effect only at a stage when they are unable to make their own decisions. The directive may apply at any time when they are unable to decide for themselves, or it may apply only if they are terminally ill.

In a NSW case, a patient was being kept alive by mechanical ventilation and kidney dialysis. When the health service became aware of the existence of an advance care directive refusing dialysis treatment, it sought legal clarification on whether the directive was valid, and whether the health service would be justified in complying with the person’s wishes.

The courts held that in general “whenever there is a conflict between a capable adult’s exercise of the right of self-determination and the state’s interest in preserving life, the right of the individual must prevail”, although there may be exceptions to that principle.

The hospital was required to give effect to the advance care directive, even though withdrawal of dialysis would hasten the person’s death.

Consult us if you would like to discuss age care issues.
End of life: Enforcing your wishes with an advance care directive
“Laws on elder law and succession”, Law Society Journal, November 2009, p.35.

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