Changes to Medical Powers of Attorney
The new Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (“the Act”) came into effect on 12 March 2018. This change in the law only applies to Medical Powers of Attorney made after 12 March 2018. All Medical Powers of Attorney made prior to 12 March 2018 will continue to be in force until revoked.
From 12 March 2018, a person can appoint a “medical treatment decision maker” who will make medical treatment decisions on behalf of persons who do not have decision-making capacity. If you have already appointed an Attorney for Medical decisions prior to 12 March 2018, that Attorney is taken to be your “appointed medical treatment decision maker”.
The Act also provides for a person to be able to make a legally binding advance care directive. An advanced care directive is a document that sets out a person’s binding instructions or preferences and values in relation to the medical treatment of that person in the event that the person does not have decision-making capacity for that medical treatment may contain an instructional directive or a values directive (s.12 of the Act).
An instructional directive is an express statement of a person’s medical treatment decision and takes effect as if the person who gave it has consented to or refused the commencement or continuation of medical treatment (s.6 of the Act). For example, in your advance care directive you may state that you consent to a heart bypass operation in specified circumstances.
A values directive is a statement of a person’s preferences and values as the basis on which the person would like any medical treatment decisions to be made on behalf of the person, including, but not limited to, a statement of medical treatment outcomes that the person regards as acceptable – for example, you may state that if you are unable to recognise your family and friends and cannot communicate, you do not want any medical treatment to prolong your life (s.6 of the Act).
If you want to make an advanced care directive, you must sign it before 2 witnesses, 1 of whom must be a registered medical practitioner. This is because a medical practitioner is obliged to ensure that you, as a patient, understands the nature and effect of your advanced care directive and its consequences.
The aim of the new Act is to respect and give effect to a person’s right to make informed decisions about their own medical treatment.
Read more about the changes on the Department of Health and Human Services website.
This article provides information that is general in nature and is not a substitute for legal advice.