- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer care and your rights
- Rights of carers
- Making decisions
The person you care for may give you the power to make decisions on their behalf if they lose the capacity to make their own decisions. This can include decisions about finances and medical care. It is important that you have a discussion ahead of time about how much treatment the person wants for the cancer, what matters most to them when making treatment decisions, and whether you’re able to carry out their wishes.
If the person you are caring for becomes incapable of making their own decisions and has not given you the power to make decisions on their behalf, the medical practitioner will approach the default substitute decision-maker. See Advance care planning, for more information.
Rights of same-sex partners
The law recognises the role of same-sex partners in medical decision-making. Sometimes, medical staff may not be fully aware of this and they may seek a decision from another member of the patient’s family before approaching the person’s domestic partner.
To ensure your rights as the domestic partner are protected, you may want to speak to the treating doctor to confirm that you are the default substitute decision-maker for medical decisions.
You or your partner may be concerned about you being recognised as the decision-maker. If so, consider asking your partner (when they still have capacity) to appoint you as their enduring guardian, enduring power of attorney or medical treatment decision maker.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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.