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What would happen if you became very sick or had a serious accident and could not talk to your doctor or family about your treatment or make decisions for yourself? Who would make medical decisions for you and how would they know what you want?

It is good to think about your future health care needs and to discuss these with your family, friends and doctors; this process is called advance care planning.

If a time comes when you are unable to make your own decisions, someone else will be asked to make decisions on your behalf. You can choose who that person is, and you can help that person to represent you by telling them what is important to you. There are several documents that can be completed as a result of advance care planning:

  • Appointment of a Medical Treatment Decision Maker: you can choose who makes decisions on your behalf if in the future you do not have capacity to do so yourself
  • Appointment of a Support Person: you can nominate someone to help you make your own medical decisions
  • Completion of an Advance Care Directive (ACD): you can document some decisions that you have already made about your medical treatment, and also express the things that you would like your decision-maker to know in order to help them make choices on your behalf

Ideally, advance care planning should start in the community, for example with your General Practitioner. It is also important to discuss your thoughts and decisions with family members, carers and close friends so that they understand your wishes.

What should I do with a written Advance Care Directive?

Distribute copies of your Advance Care Directive to the hospital/s you attend, your GP, your family and your appointed Medical Treatment Decision Maker, and keep a copy at home in an easily accessible place known to your family and/or Medical Treatment Decision Maker.

Will I need to revise my written Advance Care Directive?

You can update your Advance Care Directive at any time and it is recommended that you review it whenever your personal or medical circumstances change. If you make changes, it is a good idea to destroy all copies of your prior Directive and redistribute copies of your updated Directive.

For more information about advance care planning, consult your General Practitioner, your medical specialist, or consider the following documents:

More information

Understanding advance care planning (ACP)

If a person was unable to make decisions, an Advance Care Directive tells their family and healthcare team what treatments they would want. A person doesn’t have to be ill to start advance care planning.

To find out more, visit Advance Care Planning Australia.

Safeguarding the end of the Rainbow (2019)

Council of the Ageing (COTA) Victoria, with Transgender Victoria, have produced a free, tailored guide for older LGBTI community members. The guide looks at how to plan for: future care and medical needs;  finances and estate; funeral and burial wishes.

To view this COTA publication, click here.

Conversations: creating choices in end of life care