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Advance care planning
Advance care planning involves thinking about your future health care and discussing your treatment goals and preferences for care with your family, friends and treatment team. This helps them understand your goals, values and beliefs, and ensures that your wishes are respected should you lose the capacity to make your own decisions. Advance care planning can be started at any stage, whether you are feeling well or ill. Making your wishes clear can help give you peace of mind. Everyone has their own individual preferences for medical care and these can change over time.
As part of your advance care planning, you may record your wishes in an advance care directive and appoint a substitute decision-maker.
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The written record of your wishes may be called an advance care directive, an advance care plan or a living will. This includes details of your values, life goals and treatment preferences for doctors, family members and carers to consider if you become unable to communicate or make decisions. You may include details of treatments that you would have or refuse to have, as well as outcomes that you don’t want.
If your needs change, you can choose to revise or cancel your advance care directive. Ask your doctor or hospital to place your directive on your medical record. You can also save it online at My Health Record.
|Each state or territory has different laws about advance care planning and substitute decision-makers. Talk to a lawyer to obtain specific advice about your situation. For more information about completing an advance care plan, call the Advance Care Planning Advisory Service on 1300 208 582.|
You can legally appoint someone to make decisions for you if at some point in the future you lose the capacity to make them yourself. This can include decisions about your finances, property and medical care.
A substitute decision-maker should be someone you trust who understands your values and wishes for future care. Depending on where you live, the documents for appointing this person may be known as an enduring power of attorney, enduring power of guardianship or appointment of a medical treatment decision maker.
If you lose capacity to give consent for medical treatment and you haven’t appointed a substitute decision-maker, consent may be given by a default substitute decision-maker. They may be known as a person responsible, available consenter, statutory health attorney, or medical treatment decision maker. They are usually approached in the following order.
|for people under 16||
|for people under guardianship (e.g. people with an intellectual disability)||
|for people 16 and older||
|If no-one is available, a public guardian or a tribunal in your state or territory will make decisions on your behalf.|
Toni Ashmore, Cancer and Ambulatory Services, Canberra Health Services, ACT; Baker McKenzie, Pro Bono Legal Adviser, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Acting Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, South Metropolitan Health Service, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; David Briggs, Consumer; Naomi Catchpole, Social Worker, Metro South Health, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Tarishi Desai, Legal Research Officer, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Kathryn Dwan, Manager, Policy and Research, Health Care Consumers Association, ACT; Hayley Jones, Manager, Treatment and Supportive Care, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Victoria Lear, Cancer Care Coordinator, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Michelle Smerdon, National Pro Bono Manager, Cancer Council NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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