• Amanda Sommerville

Want your medical wishes heard? You need an Advance Health Directive (AHD)

Every day, you’re making decisions about your health and how you live your life. What are you going to eat today? Going for a run? Going to get that funny mole looked at? It’s all part of daily life.

Have you thought what happens if suddenly you can’t make decisions for yourself due to illness or an accident?

It is easy to decide to leave preparing legal documents like the:

until you’re sick – but what about if the change to your health is sudden and you don’t have time to prepare?

By taking the time to think about these things now, you can make decisions on matters you care about whilst you have the ability to enter into documents to set out your wishes.


Advance Health Directive (AHD) in Western Australia

An AHD is a legal document which enables you to make decisions about the future medical treatments you do or don’t want to receive.

Your AHD will only operate whilst you are alive, but you can’t make reasonable decisions for yourself or if you can’t communicate your wishes.

In those circumstances, the AHD speaks for you and is effectively your voice to the medical decision-makers treating you. Once you pass away, your AHD comes to an end.

You must be aged 18 years or older and have full legal capacity to make an AHD. If you have a valid AHD it sits at the top of the “next-of-kin” hierarchy. This means that except in very limited circumstances, your AHD wishes will take priority over the instructions of your Guardian (if you have an EPG) and your next-of-kin.

It enables you to control what happens to you medically at a time you can’t speak for yourself.


Make your medical and palliative care wishes clear

An AHD can be used in relation to things such as such as medical, surgical and dental treatments, palliative care decisions and medical treatments intended to sustain your life. For example, you can state whether you want to receive life‑sustaining measures to prolong your life, such as tube feeding or resuscitation. You can also outline the quality of life that is acceptable to you – for example, you may wish to specify that life-sustaining measures are to be withheld or withdrawn in the event that you suffer severe and irreversible brain damage.

An AHD can be a particularly useful document if you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness and it is likely that you will suffer certain medical events in the future. With an AHD, you can say in advance which treatments you do or don’t want to receive.

An AHD can also give you peace of mind, knowing that you have made it easy for others to know what your treatment wishes are. An AHD can also take hard decisions away from your loved ones, as you can specify what sort of life-sustaining measures or treatments you wish to receive and take the burden away from your loved ones.

You can also include information in your AHD that health professionals should know about you, such as religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs which impact on the health care you wish to receive.

How do my treating doctors know I have an AHD?

Once you have a valid AHD, it is important that your treating professionals are aware it exists:

  • If you have not opted out of the MyGov My Health Record, you can upload a copy of your AHD to that website.

  • You should also provide your doctor and any medical specialists treating you with a copy of your AHD.

  • You can keep a card in your wallet or purse which states that you have an AHD, with contact details as to where it can be located.

  • This information should also be added to the emergency contact information on your mobile phone’s lock screen – there are a number of free apps you can download to put your medical emergency information on your phone.

Does it matter which State or Territory I live in?

Generally, a valid AHD will apply in other places in Australia, although there may be some limitations and additional requirements as the applicable laws are not consistent Australia-wide.

If this is your situation, you should obtain advice regarding your specific situation and needs.

If you are permanently moving State or Territory, we recommend that you update your documentation using the form of document which is appropriate for the State or Territory where you will be living.


Get it done!

You can’t make an AHD if you lose capacity – and that could happen at any time due to accident or illness.


If you decide that an AHD would be beneficial to you, you should make your AHD as soon as possible and preferably before an urgent health condition arises. That way, you get to have control over your body at a time you can’t speak for yourself.

This is general information and does not constitute specific legal advice.

If you would like further information in relation to your AHD, EPA, EPG or any other legal matter, please contact us at Sommerville Legal on 9745 9455 or contact us here.

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