Advance Health Directives: OPA information

An Advance Health Directive (AHD) is a legal document that enables you to make decisions about the treatment you would want (or not want) to receive if you became sick or injured and were incapable of communicating your wishes.
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An Advance Health Directive is an important way of letting people know your values and preferences about your healthcare and treatment, should you become seriously ill or injured and not able to make decisions.

An AHD would only come into effect if it applied to the treatment you required and only if you were unable to make reasoned judgements about a treatment decision at the time that it was required. In short, if you required treatment but were unable to communicate your wishes, your AHD would become your voice.

The term 'treatment' includes medical, surgical and dental treatments, including palliative care and life-sustaining measures.  You cannot use an AHD to formally register your interest in organ and tissue donation and you cannot include instructions relating to Voluntary Assisted Dying (VAD) in this document.

It recommended that you discuss treatment decisions with your doctor before completing your AHD.  Your doctor and health professionals can provide advice about treatment options and how they might affect you.

Detailed information about Advance Health Directives can be found on the Department of Health's website - including a consumer's guide to Advance Health Directives.

Hierarchy of treatment decision makers

An Advance Health Directive sits at the top of the hierarchy of treatment decision-makers.

The hierarchy sets the order in which health professionals must seek treatment decisions when treating a person with a decision-making disability (as per Sections 110ZJ and 110ZD of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1990).

This means that even if you had an enduring guardian, the health professional would be obliged to follow your wishes as outlined in your AHD, except in very limited circumstances.

How to make an Advance Health Directive

To make an Advance Health Directive you must be at least 18 years of age and have full legal capacity (this means you must be capable of understanding the nature and effect of your Advance Health Directive).

If you meet these criteria, you can make an Advance Health Directive by completing the prescribed form which is available from the Department of Health's website.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I make an AHD do I need to make an Enduring Power of Guardianship too?

You are under no obligation to make an Enduring Power of Guardianship just because you have made an Advance Health Directive, nor do you have to make an Advance Health Directive because you have made an Enduring Power of Guardianship.

However, if you chose to make both, you would be increasing the likelihood that in the event you lost decision-making capacity, decisions made on your behalf would reflect the decisions you would have made yourself.

If I can’t make a treatment decision and don’t have an AHD or EPG, who will make it for me?

If treatment is needed urgently, the decision will be made by the relevant health professional.

If the treatment is not urgent, the health professional must to refer to the hierarchy of treatment decision-makers. The decision must be made by the person highest on the list (hierarchy) who was available and willing to make the decision.