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Advance Care Directives

Advance Care Directives by Mildwaters Lawyers Kadina South Australia. Image: Health by GotCredit via Flickr

What are Advance Care Directives?

Advance Care Directives are legal documents that grant the right to another person or persons to make personal decisions for you if you become unable to do so yourself because of an accident or illness which has left you mentally incapable.

The types of decisions that come under the banner of being personal include decisions about where you might live, what medical treatment you might receive, what extra curricular activities you might be involved in, what you eat and what you wear.

When do Advance Care Directives operate?

Your Advance Care Directive commences operating if and when you are deemed to have lost the ability to make decisions for yourself.

Your Advance Care Directive ceases to operate immediately upon your death.

Can I specify my wishes in it?

You can provide directions in your Advance Care Directive about how certain personal decisions must be made.  The most common directions are:

  • refraining from providing life saving intervention if the expected outcome of that intervention is poor
  • refraining from blood transfusions for religious reasons
  • refraining from resuscitating the person if they have a heart attack and they have a terminal illness.

Do I have to specify wishes?

The short answer is no.  We actually encourage our clients to leave the appointment general unless they have specific religious beliefs.  By leaving the appointment general, you can talk to the people that you have appointed and tell them what your wishes are if you have specific ones.  It also means that if your wishes change, you just have to talk to the people that you have appointed and let them know rather than having to have a new Advance Care Directive prepared with new wishes in it.

We also explain to our clients that you may think that you would want certain treatment or that you might want treatment withheld in certain circumstances, but you might think differently if you were in that position.  The old adage that you can’t judge a man until you have walked in his shoes is true here.  Until you are suffering a medical emergency and needing urgent medical intervention, you can’t really know what you would want to happen.

Whether or not you leave written directions in your Advance Care Directive about your personal affairs is completely up to you.  As long as you have an Advance Care Directive in place, you can be rest assured that you will be saving your loved ones a lot of hassle if you ever become unable to make personal decisions for yourself.

What happens if I don’t have one and I need one?

If you have an accident or illness and you become unable to make personal decisions for yourself, then your loved ones may need to apply to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT) for a guardianship order to enable them to make personal decisions on your behalf.

We have been involved with assisting families having to make a SACAT application for a guardianship order numerous times.  It is always unfortunate to see families having to go through this administrative process when they are already dealing with the personal heartbreak of their loved one becoming so ill.  It is unfortunate because it could so easily have been avoided if there had been an Advance Care Directive in place prior to them becoming ill.

Don’t leave it too late

The trouble is, too many of us do not craft Advance Care Directives early in our lives when we are in full charge of our faculties. Please do not put this off until tomorrow.  Contact us to prepare an Advance Care Directive for you today.


Image: Health by GotCredit via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

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