Advance care planning helps the people close to you know what is important to you about the level of healthcare and quality of life you would want if, for some reason, you are unable to participate in the discussions.
Discussing and writing down your wishes for future care will help the person you choose as your medical treatment decision maker to feel more comfortable about the decisions they make on your behalf.
When you appoint a medical treatment decision maker, you are choosing a trusted relative or friend to manage your health care. The person you appoint becomes your substitute decision-maker if you are no longer able to make decisions.
You may want to choose and appoint one or more adults to this role. To do this you need to complete the Appointment of a medical treatment decision maker form. This Checklist of Steps for Appointing Your Medical Treatment Decision Maker will help you complete the form.
If you need someone’s help to complete and sign the document for you, use the Appointment of medical treatment decision maker for someone signing on your behalf form.
The forms have specific requirements for completion and witnessing. Your chosen medical treatment decision maker must accept this role by signing the form.
Your medical treatment decision maker can consent to or refuse treatment on your behalf. They must act in accordance with any lawful limitations or conditions contained in the form. They must make the decision they believe you would make if you could make your own decision. For this reason, it is helpful to talk to them about what is important to you and any preferences you have.
If you have appointed a medical enduring power of attorney, an enduring power of attorney, or enduring power of guardianship prior to 12 March 2018, these are still valid.
An Advance Care Directive records your specific preferences for future health care. This includes treatments you would accept or refuse if you had a life-threatening illness or injury. An Advance Care Directive will only be used if you do not have capacity to make decisions for yourself or to communicate your preferences.
To make an Advance Care Directive, we recommend using the Advance Care Directive for adults form. The following guide Instructions for completing the Advance care directive for adults can also help you complete the form.
If you need someone’s help to complete and sign the document for you, due to a physical disability affecting writing and signing, use the Advance Care Directive for adults for someone signing on your behalf form.
The forms have specific instructions for completion that need to be followed. They need to be witnessed by a medical practitioner and another adult.
In your Advance Care Directive, you can write:
You can also include details regarding your organ donation status.
Medical treatment includes treatment for physical and mental conditions.
In your Advance Care Directive, you can give specific instructions about certain medical treatments.
For example, you might ask that life-prolonging treatment – such as tube feeding or resuscitation – be withheld or withdrawn if you have:
It’s possible to create an advance care directive without using the official form above. To meet the formal requirements of an advance care directive, it must be in English, include your full name, address, date of birth, be signed by you and dated, and meet witnessing requirements.
A valid refusal of medical treatment certificate made prior to 12 March 2018 and signed by a doctor is still valid if clinically relevant.
If a person is no longer able to make or communicate their decisions, a family member or healthcare professional can report medical treatment preferences on a person’s behalf using the What I understand to be the person’s preferences and values’ form.
This advance care plan isn’t legally binding but can be useful to inform care decisions, and should be taken into account.
For an advance care plan form that can be used in all states and territories, use the Advance care plan for a person with insufficient decision-making capacity form.
If you require support to make or communicate your own medical treatment decisions while you have decision-making capacity, a support person can help represent your interests.
Your support person can help you make, communicate and give effect to your medical treatment decisions. They can also access or help you to access health information about you which is relevant to medical treatment decision-making.
Your support person can represent your interests in relation to your medical treatment, including when you do not have decision-making capacity but they do not have the power to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf.
You can appoint a support person by completing the Appointment of a Support Person form.
Before completing the form, we recommend reading the checklist of steps for appointing your support person.
We recommend uploading your documents to My Health Record.
It’s important that you share copies of your documents with your medical treatment decision maker, family, friends, carers and your doctors. This will ensure everyone knows what you want.
You can also download and print a wallet card to let others know that you have an advance care directive.
We recommend that you review your decisions and documents regularly. This is particularly important if there is a change in your health, personal or living situation.
You can update your Advance Care Directive and your appointment of a medical treatment decision maker at any time providing you still have decision-making capacity.
You can amend your Advance Care Directive by writing on the document. You should let others know of any changes, and provide updated copies.
Your Advance Care Directive ends when you complete a new Advance Care Directive, you revoke it, it expires (if an expiry date is included) or you die.
In general, a valid advance care directive will apply in other places in Australia, although there may be some limitations and additional requirements. Learn more about applicability in specific states and territories.
For more in-depth legal information, read about advance care planning laws in Victoria.
Updated: 16th March 2023