Since Tuesday afternoon, I have had self-diagnosed laryngitis that came on super strong. So, I lost my voice amongst a general feeling of intense cold and flu symptoms. When asked how I am this week, I have responded (where able) with a very serious, “I have a hard-core man flu – imminent death is apparent.” People laughed, some may have thought I was oversharing/dramatising?, but I was deadly serious. I wasn’t laughing, I felt like death warmed up and speaking caused physical pain!
It gets you thinking, what if you couldn’t speak for yourself? What if your brain could make decisions but you were unable to express them? Think Callie Torres in season 7, episode 18 of Grey’s Anatomy (I LOVE this show!). You’re in a coma, able to hear what is being said, but unable to speak. OMG! intense, uncool and a very scary situation.
My husband and I have completely different opinions on health management in the event that we lose capacity or the ability to express our wishes. He says he doesn’t want to live on a machine, turn it off. I say I am a rock star! I might be on life support for months before I wake up, but I will wake up (because I’m amazing), so don’t you dare turn it off!
We talk about things like this, and that’s awesome, a lot of people don’t. But, if I am in a situation where my husband does not have the capacity to express his wishes, I don’t know if I could follow the instructions he has verbally told me. He wants me to turn off the machine! But, I’m a believer in that 1% chance of waking up and I’ll hold onto that 1% and run with it for years if I have to.
So, what’s this post about? Advance Health Directives (“AHD”). They are a Queensland document which provides direction on your health in the event you don’t have the capacity to make decisions. They are a document for your loved ones and medical team, detailing what your wishes are!
The benefit of an AHD is that it gives you a greater say in your future healthcare, such as in circumstances where life support is necessary, directions on what action you would like taken. An AHD applies at a future time if you become unwell and are unable to make decisions about your healthcare. i.e you do not have the ‘capacity’ to make decisions.
You can use your AHD to express your wishes in a general way, such as stating that you would want to receive all available treatment. You can include relevant information about yourself that health professionals should know, such as:
- special health conditions;
- allergies to medications; and
- religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that could affect your care.
You can give specific instructions about certain medical treatments; for instance, you might feel strongly about whether or not you want to receive life-sustaining measures to prolong your life. These include:
- Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, to keep your heart beating;
- Assisted ventilation, to keep you breathing if your lungs stop working; and
- Artificial nutrition and hydration.
Before completing the form, first, take time to carefully reflect on the decisions you have to make. Remember, you are putting in place a plan that will determine your future health care. Consider what is important to you, such as being able to communicate with loved ones, or receiving maximum pain relief.
At the end of the day, if I was placed in that actual “what if situation”, I honestly don’t think I could make the directive to turn off a machine that was keeping my husband alive, and if I did, I know I would think about my decision every day for the rest of my life. So unless my husband makes an AHD, he’s stuck with my decisions!
When I discuss estate planning with client’s, we talk about advance health directives and I provide them with a copy of an AHD. Personally, I believe that people should be entitled to have their health care carried out to their wishes and I believe that placing that decision into the care of loved ones, without written direction can lead to very difficult decisions being made. Put your wishes in writing, so your loved ones don’t have to make decisions for you!
As is usual, the information provided here is brief general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Should you have a legal question or situation, you should engage the services of a lawyer to provide you with advice on the current law specific to your individual circumstances.