An advance care directive, sometimes referred to as a living will, is a written legal document that outlines your specific wishes for future medical care. It is implemented only if you are unable to make your own decisions.

It may cover issues such as assisted nutrition, life-sustaining treatments and resuscitation, as well as nominate someone to make decisions for you when you are no longer able if you wish. This person is often referred to as your enduring guardian or durable power of attorney.

The more guidance you can provide them on your preferences, the more likely your family and health care providers will make decisions that respect your wishes.

Fact

Research shows that people who prepare advance care directives are more satisfied and more comfortable about making end-of-life decisions.

What may help

Update your plans

You can review your advance care directive whenever you wish. Make sure that the people who are caring for you are always up to date with any changes and keep these papers in a safe place. Give a copy to your own doctor, your enduring guardian (if you have appointed one), a family member or friend and also your solicitor if you wish.

Do the paperwork

Legislation regarding advance care directives varies from state to state. NSW, Tasmania and Western Australia do not have specific laws, but directives may still be valid under common law. Information can be obtained from the Department of Health in your state or you can go to CareSearch website.

For more information

Life, Hope & Reality was developed and written by Afaf Girgis, Claire Johnson, and Sylvie Lambert with funding from the NHMRC and Cancer Council NSW.

Last updated 30 August 2015