A Living Will is a document created to clarify intent with regard to future health concerns and treatment. The document itself is legitimised by setting up specific medical Enduring Power of Attorney while a person is in sound mind and able to do. This Power of Attorney may be held with a family member or other trusted person who is given the rights to make decisions regarding health and treatment when the person is no longer able to do so.
It is important that a Living Will be signed whilst a person is mentally competent. A person may have a mental illness and sign a Living Will as long as it can be shown that the person making the Will understands the implications of what has been written and is being signed. It is wise to consult and conduct this business with your solicitor to ensure that paperwork is legally processed and your intentions are made clear.
Advanced Care Directives
In some states, such as Queensland, South Australia the Northern Territory and Western Australia, Advanced Care Directives (ACDs) are legally binding documents, allowing people to determine their future health choices through Living Wills. Most States offer guidelines in preparing such documents and setting up carer rights. Although these rights and options usually come into place at the end of one’s life, it is becoming increasingly important with the rise in mental illness, that people have options in place for care during times of crisis. Once again, it is advisable to discuss these decisions with your solicitor.
A Living Will or an Advanced Care Directive records decisions made prior to illness or incapacitation about health and treatment. These documents come into effect when a person can no longer make decisions for themselves and can be made if the person has mental capacity and is over 18 years of age. Directives can include wishes about resuscitation, hydration, surgery and artificial feeding. However, some people have specific requests such as refusing antibiotics, blood transfusions or other treatments and interventions. Oftentimes these decisions are based in ideological or religion concerns that the person making the Living Will would like to have respected.
Enduring Power of Guardianship/Attorney
By issuing Enduring Power of Guardianship or Attorney you can empower a trusted person or family member to:
- make decisions about where you live, permanently or temporarily
- make decisions about who you live with
- make decisions about whether you work or not and, thereby, any work-related matters
- make treatment decisions on your behalf with regards to medical, surgical or dental treatment or other health care (including palliative care and life-sustaining measures such as assisted ventilation and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation)
- deal with legal proceedings on your behalf, within the strictures of law
- advocate for and make decisions about your support services
- seek and receive information on your behalf.
Alternatively, you can restrict any of these powers or introduce issues that are of significance to you. When appointing Power of Guardianship or Attorney, you will determine when these powers will come into effect and under which circumstances.
Your solicitor will be able to advise on the extent of these powers and the legal parameters of such documents.