What is an Advance Health Directive?
An Advance Health Directive is a formal way of giving instructions for your future health care. It comes into effect only if you are unable to make your own decisions.
Why should I make an Advance Health Directive?
People who are seriously ill can be unconscious or incapable of communicating their wishes. This is the time when critical decisions need to be made, so it’s wise to record your wishes before this happens.
When should I make one?
The best time to make an Advance Health Directive is now, before any urgent matters arise.
However, it’s particularly important to do so:
- If you are about to be admitted to hospital; or
- If you have a medical condition that is likely to affect your ability to make decisions.
How does it work?
- You fill out a form stating what type of treatment you want. This may be a general statement of your wishes or may give specific instructions for certain medical conditions and types of treatments.
- We provide a copy to your general practitioner.
- Medical staff will be able to refer to your Advance Health Directive, if you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
What kinds of things should I put in the directive?
You can express your wishes in a general way. For example, you can state:
- Any particular types of medical treatment you do or don’t want to receive;
- Any special medical conditions that your doctor or other medical staff should know about such as diabetes or an allergy to certain mediations; and
- Any religious beliefs that could affect you treatment, such as a blood transfusion.
You can also give specific instructions about what treatment you want or don’t want to receive if:
- You have a terminal illness (doctors believe you only 12months to live);
- You have an incurable illness (there is no known cure);
- You have an irreversible condition;
- You are permanently unconscious (from severe brain damage); or
- You are so seriously ill or injured that you cannot survive without a life support system.
You can state whether you would want any particular type of medical intervention to keep you alive, if you had any of those conditions.
If you don’t have an attorney for personal/health matters, there is a section in the Advance Health Directive form to appoint one. You can also authorise your attorney/s to make decisions about health matters should the directions you have made in the Advance Health Directive, be inadequate for any reason.
Tissue and organ donation
With over 2000 people in Australia on an organ transplant waiting list at any given time you should never assume that you aren’t healthy enough or that you’re too old to donate organs. People up to 90 years of age can donate some organs and tissue.
Australian organ donor register
If you wish your organs to be only for the purpose of transplantation to the body of a living person and not for medical or scientific purposes, you should register your name on the Australian Organ Donor Register. In the event of your death, this ensures that your wishes can be accessed from the Donor Register 24/7 and provided to your family.
Organ donation in your Advance Health Directive
You can use the Advance Health Directive form to authorise tissue and organ donations after you have died, for the purpose of transplantation to the body of a living person, for therapeutic purposes or for other medical or scientific purposes.
Does this mean that I can give instruction for my doctor to help me die?
No, Euthanasia is illegal in Queensland. By law, your doctor cannot give you anything such as an injection that is intended to hasten your death.