Monday, August 13, 2012

Difficulties with Advanced Health Directives

In last week’s post, an overview of Advanced Health Directives (AHDs) was provided.

As mentioned in that post, there are a number of significant practical difficulties with AHDs, and in summary, the main issues in this regard include:

1.       The person making the AHD tends to want to be able to have a ‘turn off the switch’ type provision (or perhaps even euthanasia).  No AHD allows this.  Unless the donor has specific religious or personal objectives, many of the questions are somewhat irrelevant.

2.       The attitude of a donor when signing the AHD is not necessarily any indication of their attitude in say, ten years time, when the issue arises.  Anecdotally many doctors are unwilling to rely on a document from years earlier in the heat of the moment (even if they find that document on an urgent basis).

3.       As the document needs to be completed with a GP it is unlikely that the GP is actually going to be involved in any sort of emergency situation in any event – again, another reason why the doctor actually performing the medical treatment etc, would be very unlikely to either try and find the AHD or even if it is found, look to rely on it.

4.       In contrast, doctors will generally place significant weight on whoever is appointed as the enduring power of attorney.  If that enduring power of attorney is also a next of kin and if there is no hint of any dispute in the immediate family group, then the wishes of the person seeking medical treatment will generally be respected.

In next week’s post, there will be links provided to the relevant government websites for AHDs in every Australian State.

Until next week.