For Families & Patients

Palliative care supports people with a life-limiting illness and their families to live, die and grieve well.
Back to Wishes and plans

Plan ahead – advance care

You have the right to make decisions about your current and future medical treatment.

You can appoint a support person to help you make your medical treatment decisions. Your support person can check that your decisions are followed.

You can take these steps in case you lose the ability to make or communicate your own decisions:

1. Appoint a Medical Treatment Decision Maker

You can appoint a Medical Treatment Decision Maker. This person will make decisions about your medical treatment if you are not able to. They can consent to treatment that they believe you would want. They can refuse treatment that they believe you would not want.

Choose a person who knows you well and who you can trust to make the decisions you would want.

2. Discuss your health care preferences

What matters most to you if you are seriously ill or dying? These are your ‘advance care’ preferences.

Discuss these preferences with your family, Medical Treatment Decision Maker and doctors. Do this often, including when your health care preferences or circumstances change.

Talk to your family, doctor and palliative care team about your wishes and advance care plan. Let them know if you need help to have these discussions or if it is your cultural practice for your family to make these decisions,

3. Write an Advance Care Directive

Write down the things that would be important for your future health care decisions. You can do this by completing an Advance Care Directive form.  This can include a Values Directive, or Instructional Directive, or both.

Values Directive

The values directive includes important things you want to guide decisions about your medical treatment, if you can no longer make decisions:

  • What matters most to you.
  • What worries you most about your future.
  • The medical treatment results you want to avoid.
  • The people you want involved in discussions about your care.
  • What would be most important to you when you are dying.

Your Medical Treatment Decision Maker must consider your Values Directive when making decisions about your medical treatment.

Instructional Directive

You can give specific instructions about your future medical treatment. These must be called an Instructional Directive and they must be written down.

This can include:

  • Your consent to specific medical treatments in the future. You can specify the circumstances in which you would want this medical treatment. Health professionals must respect your consent when there is a good medical reason to provide this treatment.
  • Your refusal of specific medical treatments. For example: being fed through a tube, having a machine breathe for you. You can specify the circumstances in which your refusal of specific medical treatments must apply. Health professionals must respect your decision to refuse specific medical treatment in relevant circumstances.

You cannot refuse reasonable medical treatments to relieve pain or suffering. You cannot refuse to be offered food and water but you are not required to accept it.

Your Medical Treatment Decision Maker will not make medical treatment decisions that are covered by your Instructional Directive.

Help and forms available

Your doctor or palliative care team can help you to discuss your advance care preferences.

Keep your Advance Care Directive and give copies to your Medical Treatment Decision Makers, family, doctors and treating health services. Review it often and update it as necessary.