Levels of formality

There can be varying levels of formality involved in advance care planning.

Ranging from most to least formal, the options include: 

  • completing a statutory advance care directive (established in legislation) in which you give instructions about future healthcare treatments, if such a directive is available in your State or Territory
  • legally appointing another person to be able to make healthcare and/or lifestyle decisions for you if are not able to do this for yourself, and giving this person instructions on how to make decisions on your behalf
  • completing a common law directive that may include a general statement of values, wishes and preferences to guide substitute decision-makers and/or giving directions about consent for, or refusal of, specific treatments
  • having one or more conversations about things that are important to you with family members, your GP or other persons.

Benefits of a more formal approach

The benefit of taking a more formal approach is that your wishes can be stated more clearly and they are more likely to be seen as having a legal basis.

Furthermore, if you have appointed a substitute decision-maker and also given them clear and formal instructions, that person will feel more confident about advocating strongly on your behalf if there is uncertainty or disagreement about certain decisions.

Attitudes to advance care planning