We all know the importance of having a properly drafted and executed Will, Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian in place. However, a properly drafted and executed Advanced Care Directive or Living Will is usually overlooked.
An Advanced Care Directive is a written document that specifies medical treatment we wish or do not wish to receive. In this sense, it covers important areas that Wills, Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian documents do not.
Interestingly, New South Wales lacks specific legislation dealing with Advanced Care Directives. There is also no case law in Australia dealing with the issue. However, recent Common Law decisions from Canada and the United Kingdom would tend to suggest that Australian Courts could look favorably towards the validity of Advanced Care Directives.
The NSW Department of Health also supports and encourages the use of Advanced Care Directives. Not only does this support the validity of Advanced Care Directives, it is also useful in the clinical setting if your wishes in regard to medical treatment are clear and unambiguous. This can extend to life sustaining treatment to pain and symptom control at the end of life.
When thinking about your Will, Power of Attorney and Appointment of Enduring Guardian documents, ask your solicitor about an Advanced Care Directive. In anticipation of future loss of capacity, you can be reassured that your wishes regarding medical treatment can still be respected.