Advance care planning

Every competent adult in NSW has the legal right to accept or refuse any recommended medical treatment. Your end of life choices can only be respected if those involved know what you want and what you do not want.

If you are unable to make and communicate your own decisions at the time of treatment, health professionals will refer to your Advance Care Plan to identify your wishes.

DWD NSW recommends that every Australian adult makes an Advance Care Plan. You may find it helpful to listen to the speech given by Professor Colleen Cartwright at the DWD NSW Annual General Meeting on 27 May 2017, entitled ‘End of Life Options – The Key Issues’. Click for video (59 mins)

Professor Colleen Cartwright

Professor Colleen Cartwright

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning is a process by which you reflect upon and document your personal values and preferences, to be used as a guide to your future health care in the event that you become unable to speak for yourself. It is about taking control of your health care wishes now and into the future.

Should you become seriously ill and not able to make or communicate your own decisions then your doctors and those you love will want to know your treatment preferences and your wishes into the future. If these preferences and wishes are documented in advance it will be of great help to everyone involved and avoid disagreements. Dying with Dignity NSW recommends that you write a plan while you are well, or in the early stage of dementia.

The most important steps in the process of advance care planning are:

  • discussing your health care wishes with your family, close friends and your doctor.
  • thinking about what treatments you would want to have, and which you would refuse.
  • writing down your wishes in an “Advance Care Directive”
  • choosing a trusted person to be your “Enduring Guardian”. This is a person, or persons, who knows you and your wishes and whom you would trust to make decisions about your medical care if you are not able to.

An advance care plan normally results in two documents:

  • An Advance Care Directive in which you clearly state your wishes in relation to your medical treatment.
  • An Appointment of Enduring Guardianship.

These documents will remain in force until they are required, if ever, or until you write a new advance care plan if your health or circumstances change.

How do I complete an Advance Care Plan?

Dying with Dignity NSW have prepared a guide to help you understand what you need to know about the planning process, choosing the right form for you and advice on how to go about completing the forms.

It also includes a section of Things to discuss with my family and friends before completing an Advance Care Directive

Click here fo the guide:  DWD NSW Guide to Advance Care Planning in NSW

Where do I get the forms I need?

Dying with Dignity NSW provides a set of printed Advance Care Planning forms to all new members. The set consists of three printed documents:

1. The Guide to Advance Care Planning in NSW
2. An Advance Care Directive for NSW
3. The ‘NSW Appointment of Enduring Guardian’ form.

Click here to purchase a set of printed forms posted to you

We have also provided links below to the three documents in our Advance Care Planning Set that you can download for free, if you have access to a printer:

DWD NSW Guide to Advance Care Planning in NSW

NSW Advance Care Directive by Prof Cartwright

NSW Enduring Guardianship Tribunal Form and Information

NB: ‘The Appointment of Enduring Guardianship’ form is a statutory document provided by a branch of the NSW government. In NSW there is no prescribed Advance Care Directive. The Board of Dying with Dignity NSW has chosen an Advance Care Directive that they believe is a good balance between requirements. This form was created by Professor Colleen Cartwright (PhD (UQ), MPH (UQ), B Soc Wk (Hons) (UQ), ADA (Drama) (NRCAE), who was Foundation Professor of Aged Services and the Director of the Aged Services Unit at Southern Cross University), and is legally robust and widely endorsed by Australian health professionals.

Is an Advance Care Plan legally binding?

The nomination of an Enduring Guardian is legally binding under The NSW Guardianship Act 1987. Conversely, NSW does not have a specific statute governing Advance Care Directives, but they are legally binding under common law (as confirmed by NSW Supreme Court in 2009), provided the person is mentally competent at the time of completing their directive and it has been made free from coercion.

The legally binding effect of an Advance Care Directive is confined to refusals of treatment. A demand or request in an Advance Care Directive for a particular form of treatment does not mean the health care provider is legally obliged to provide it. However, but it may be considered as indicating your consent to the treatment. In addition, the preferences you make in your Advance Care Directive are likely to be taken into account by anyone concerned with promoting your best interests at a time when you are unable to speak for yourself.

Please be aware that Advance Care Planning does not enable you to access treatments which are against the law at the time and place of your treatment. Voluntary Assisted Dying is currently against the law throughout Australia, but Dying with Dignity NSW hopes that this will not always be the case.

What if I want more information about Advance Care Planning?

Dying with Dignity NSW has compiled a list of resources to enable you to get more information about Advance Care Planning (if you wish).

See the reference list on page 7 and 8 of our DWD NSW Guide to Advance Care Planning in NSW

There are also two relevant websites which have been set up since the Guide was produced:

If you would like to purchase a set of advance care planning forms simply click the button below. Please note that all new members automatically receive a set of forms. Click to go to page to buy Advance care planning forms

Click to go back to ‘Your rights’ webpage.