What is an Advance Health Directive?

An Advance Health Directive (AHD) is a legal document that lets you make decisions now about the treatment and care you do or do not want to receive in future.

June 6, 2024

Having an Advance Health Directive (AHD) can give both you and your loved ones peace of mind by making sure that your health care preferences are known and respected. It helps healthcare professionals understand what is important to you. This can help to alleviate the emotional burden on family members who might otherwise have to make tough decisions on your behalf.

To create an AHD in Western Australia, you must:

  • Be 18 years or older.

  • Have full legal capacity at the time of making the directive. This means you:

  • Understand the information or advice given to you about making decisions in your AHD.

  • Understand the likely effects of your decisions on your future treatment and care.

  • Can weigh the pros and cons of your decisions.

  • Can communicate your decisions in some way.

When will your Advance Health Directive be used?

Your AHD will be used when you no longer have the capacity to make or communicate decisions. This could happen under various circumstances, such as being under anaesthetic for a procedure or due to a serious illness or injury. It’s important to be clear about the situations under which you want your decisions to apply.

Who will make decisions when you can’t?

If you can't make decisions, health professionals must follow a specific order of people (the Hierarchy of Treatment Decision-Makers) who can decide for you, starting with your AHD as the main guide for any treatment.

Benefits of an AHD include:

  • Your specific wishes regarding medical treatment are followed.

  • Peace of mind by providing assurance that your healthcare preferences are documented and legally binding.

  • Clarity by offering clear instructions to your healthcare team, reducing uncertainty.

  • Avoiding conflicts among family members or between family and healthcare providers.

  • Allowing you to detail your preferences based on religious beliefs, ethical concerns, or personal wishes.

Creating an AHD is a proactive way to ensure your healthcare preferences are respected. It’s a straightforward process with significant benefits for you and your loved ones. For more information or help with creating an AHD, consult a legal professional or contact the WA Department of Health

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