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New laws for medical treatment decision making and advance care directives

Friday, 02 March 2018

The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 will commence on 12 March 2018, protecting advance care directives in law. The Act provides statutory recognition to advance care directives and establishes a single framework for medical treatment decision making.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has worked closely with the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) and health experts to develop a range of information and tools to support the implementation of the Act.

The Act is part of a broader shift towards empowering and supporting people to make their own treatment decisions.

What is the intention of the Act?

The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 creates clear obligations for health practitioners caring for people who do not have decision making capacity.

The Act ensures medical decision making is more in line with the way people think and make decisions about their medical treatment and personal autonomy.

The Act provides a single process for medical treatment decision making for people without decision making capacity that ensures that people receive medical treatment that is consistent with their preferences and values.

Come March 12, Victorians will be able to create a legally binding advance care directive that will allow them to:
• Make an instructional directive (which will provide specific directives about treatment a person consents to or refuses).
• Make a values directive (which will describe a person's views and values. A medical treatment decision maker and health practitioners will be required to give effect to a values directive).
• Appoint a medical treatment decision maker (who will make decisions on behalf of a person when they no longer have decision making capacity).
• Appoint a support person (who will assist a person to make decisions for themselves, by collecting and interpreting information or assisting the person to communicate their decisions).
• Previously completed Advance Care Plans/Directives and appointed medical treatment decision makers will be recognised through the new Act.

The new legislation provides Victorians confidence in the health system, which will respect their decisions about medical treatment.

This Act does not authorise physician assisted dying and is a separate issue to advance care planning.