This page provides a plain-English overview of the legal processes involved in planning ahead, as well as links to local information. To get advice about your individual circumstances it is recommended that you consult with one of the agencies referred to below or a legal practitioner.
Apart from appointing a substitute decision-maker, how else can I document my wishes?
- While having conversations about your wishes is crucial, it is strongly recommended that you also document your wishes in at least one of the ways outlined below. This will avoid situations such as the person(s) you have spoken with not quite remembering what you had said, the person not being available when decisions need to be made or the person not relaying your views if they were not really in agreement with them.
- As the first two options below have a clear legal basis in Queensland legislation, it is recommended that you explore these options first.
Complete an Advance Health Directive
- This is a written document that has a clear legal basis in legislation under the Powers of Attorney Act 1998.
Within the Advance Health Directive, you can include information that you would like health professionals to know about you, such as:
- special health conditions
- allergies to medications
- religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that would affect your care
- your views about quality of life that would be acceptable to you.
You can give specific instructions whether or not you would consent to certain medical treatments, such as:
- cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), to keep your heart beating
- assisted ventilation, to keep you breathing if your lungs stopped working
- receiving food or fluids by tube
- receiving antibiotics.
- You can use the Advance Health Directive to appoint someone to make personal and health decisions for you (an attorney for personal/health matters).
- Your completed Advance Health Directive must be signed by a medical doctor and witnessed by specific types of witness as specified in the guidelines (below).
- Your Advance Health Directive will only be used if you become unable to make a treatment decision yourself.
- Instructions in Advance Health Directives must be followed, although there is some provision for doctors not to follow them if they believe them to be uncertain, inconsistent with “good medical practice” or that circumstances, including advances in medical science, have changed to the extent that the terms of the direction are inappropriate.
- The most common way to complete an Advance Health Directive is to use the form provided by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General (see below). However, it does not need to be written on this form, as long as it has been signed by you, and signed and dated by an eligible witness.
Include instructions in the appointment of an Enduring Power of Attorney for personal/health matters
- The form allows you to specify decisions that you do not want your attorney to make and to include particular instructions about what you would like your attorney to do. Your attorney must act in accordance with your instructions.
Make a written statement of your wishes other than in an Advance Health Directive
- This may be a general statement of your values, wishes and preferences. It may also include directions about whether you would, or would not, consent to specific treatments in particular circumstances.
- Documents for this purpose can be found from a range of programs – including the worksheets on this website and other programs listed on this site.
- This type of document is often referred to as a ‘common law directive’ because it potentially has a legal basis in common law (law decided by courts rather than legislation).
- A common law directive written by you needs to be used to guide any persons who have to make decisions on your behalf.
- There are different opinions about the degree to which common law directives are legally binding, and there have been no court findings in Queensland to give clear guidance on this.
- If you choose to make a common law directive, it is strongly recommended that you use one of the forms developed for this purpose and that you have the form witnessed. This will increase the likelihood that your directive will be accepted and acted on if the need arises.
Whatever type of documents you make, it is vital to give copies to people who may have to make decisions for you in the future and to make sure they understand how you want them to use these documents.
Links to local resources
To view comprehensive information about Advance Health Directives from the Queensland Government, click here
To view comprehensive information about advance care planning from Queensland Health, click here