Victorians now have greater powers to set legally-binding plans about future medical treatment preferences and end-of-life care, thanks to the Andrews Labor Government’s historic laws coming into force last week.
The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 has enshrined advance care directives in law for the first time in Victoria, delivering on a key election promise.
An advance care directive is a legally binding document designed to make a person’s preferences for future medical treatment clear when that person loses the capacity to make decisions themselves – making it simple for health practitioners to know and respect end-of-life care choices.
Directives can include instructions about treatments that a person consents to or refuses, and personal values that could guide the type of treatment they would prefer. The Act also allows a person to appoint a medical treatment decision maker and a support person to communicate on their behalf.
People of all ages with decision-making capacity will now be able to make a legally binding advance care directive. The directive will need to be witnessed by two people, one of whom is a medical practitioner.
Those under the age of 18 must have an advance care directive witnessed by a medical practitioner or psychologist with expertise in capacity development in children.
Anyone who is found to have coerced someone into making an advance care directive could face up to five years in prison, and health practitioners who fail to respect advance care directives will also face disciplinary procedures.
The laws deliver on recommendations from a Parliamentary Inquiry into end-of-life choices, and apply to all registered health practitioners.
The Labor Government is improving access to the best possible end-of-life care to relieve pain and suffering, and supports families and carers.
We are investing more than $62 million in additional funding over five years to support more terminally ill Victorians to be cared for, and die, at home. In 2017/18, this will provide home-based palliative care for an additional 1215 people and their families.
Quotes attributable to Acting Minister for Health Martin Foley
“We’re putting people’s preferences and values first in their medical treatment decision making. It ensures end-of-life care wishes are known, respected and legally binding.”
“I encourage all Victorians to talk about end-of-life care with their loved ones. It is a difficult – but important – discussion to have, so everyone is aware of you and your family’s personal wishes.”