Have you ever wondered what would happen if you became seriously unwell or injured and unable to make decisions about your medical treatment? While it’s not something anyone wants to dwell on, putting a little thought and planning into these matters can mean – should the unthinkable happen – you are cared for in keeping with your beliefs, values and wishes.

What is Medical Treatment Planning?

Over recent years, there’s been a promising increase in attention to aged-care planning, at both a state and federal government level and across media channels.

For some time, people in Victoria have been able to express their wishes about how they are to be medically cared for in the future with an the Enduring Power of Attorney (Medical) (EPA (Med)).

Recently, a trio of new forms have taken the place of this document. The Medical Treatment Planning & Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) (‘the Act’) came into force on 12 March 2018, whilst Melbournians flocked to the banks of the Yarra on the final day of Moomba.

These new forms give greater options to those contemplating their future planning and encourage people to think carefully about their future and ensure that their own beliefs are adhered to throughout their life.

What if I already have a plan?

If you already have an (EPA (Med), there is no need to worry, the Act does not affect its validity. Keep reading, though, to see why you may wish to complement this document with one of the new forms.

Appointing a Medical Treatment Decision Maker

This new form takes the place of the EPA (Med), allowing you to specify who has the legal authority to make medical treatment decisions for you in the event that injury or illness prevent you from making these decisions yourself.

Previously, we appointed ‘attorneys’ but the new forms replace this terminology with ‘Appointed Medical Treatment Decision Makers’ (MDTM). If you already have an EPA (Med), then your attorney has likely become your MTDM.

This appointed person will be the first port of call for doctors if a medical treatment decision needs to be made on your behalf. This could be any decision to consent to, or refuse, the commencement or continuation of a medical treatment or medical research procedure. This includes dental treatment, and treatment for mental illness.

Given the weighty decisions that this person may be asked to make, it’s important to think carefully about who you appoint. It’s equally important that you discuss your values and wishes with this person to ensure that they know how to act in their role. 

Appointing a Support Person

If you don’t want to appoint someone in the formal capacity of MTDM, you can instead appoint someone as your support person.

A support person can’t make medical decisions on your behalf. What they can do is discuss your options with you and help you to access health information relevant to medical treatment.

What is an Advance Care Directive?

The Advance Care Directive (ACD) is a new form, and it has a couple of different functions.

Firstly, it allows you to make an instructional directive. This means that you can record your decision over certain medical treatments in a way that is legally binding. If you lose the ability to communicate your wishes, your doctors (and other medical treatment staff) will be bound to follow your decision. For example, you may wish not to be resuscitated or placed on life support.

Secondly, the ACD allows you to make a values directive. This is a list of values that your medical treatment decision maker is legally required to first consider when making decisions about your medical treatment. Directives here may be general or specific in nature.

You must sign an ACD before a medical doctor.

Future planning

If you’re thinking about your future and would like the peace of mind that comes with medical treatment planning, or have an existing EPA (Med) that you’d like to discuss, please get in touch.