Advance Health Directives – Do you really need one?

Advance Health Directives – Do you really need one?

Part of any proper estate planning is giving consideration to how healthcare decisions will be made if you are unable to make them yourself. Generally, this can be achieved through the use of enduring powers of attorney, which allow a person to appoint people to make (among other things) health decisions on their behalf if they are unable to.

One of the potential shortcomings of enduring powers of attorney in Queensland is that you cannot give binding written directions to your attorney about serious matters such as the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining medical treatment – your attorney can make decisions about these matters, but you cannot give them binding instructions in the enduring power of attorney.  In these circumstances, you should consider advance health directives.

You can only give specific instructions about health care matters, such as the withdrawing or withholding of life-sustaining medical treatment, through a properly prepared and executed advance health directive

Advance health directives can:

  • outline the types of medical treatment and health care you consent to if you cannot make decisions for yourself;
  • can be general (such as by authorising all available treatments) or specific (such as by declining certain types of treatment);
  • can also allow the appointment of attorneys for health and personal matters;
  • can provide relevant and useful information for health care professionals such as allergies, health conditions or relevant religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs.

In previous years it was relatively rare for us to receive instructions to prepare advance health directives – most of our estate planning clients were comfortable with enduring powers of attorney and to let their attorneys make health care decisions for them when they lost capacity.  We usually found that clients who wished to prepare advance health directives either suffered from an illness such as motor neuron disease where difficult health decisions were inevitable, or had religious or cultural beliefs that prohibited certain types of medical treatment.

We have noticed that in recent years there has been a greater demand for advance health directives as people become more understanding of their effect and wish to take a firmer control of their health care decisions.

We have also noted that medical professionals and institutions are more aware of their obligations in relation to advance health directives, and appear to be very comfortable with following  a written direction contained in an advance health directive.  We have had a number of matters involving health care professionals and institutions who have attempted to ignore or avoid obligations to comply with directions provided by an attorney.

Because of its nature, an advance health directive needs the involvement of a medical professional to prepare.

Ballantyne Law Group is able to assist you with any questions you have about estate planning generally, or advance health directives specifically.

Please Contact us on (07) 5606 7332 to discuss this or any other matter.

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Gold Coast lawyer James Ballantyne

James Ballantyne


Sidnee Jennings