What is an advance health directive?
At some point in the future, you may be unable to make decisions about your health care, even temporarily. This might be due to an accident, dementia, a stroke or a mental illness.
An advance health directive allows you to:
- Provide instructions for your future healthcare
- Express your wishes and provide healthcare professionals with guidance on the treatment you desire
- Designate a trusted individual (an attorney) to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, although this can also be arranged through an enduring power of attorney
If you have previously seen an enduring power of attorney, you will recall that the enduring power of attorney document allows you to appoint people to make health decisions for you. The difference with the advance health document is that it allows you to pre-make those decisions – requiring no input from your power of attorney or any other person and overrides the decisions or directives of those people.
Preparing to make your advance health directive
You should also:
- think about your views, wishes and preferences for your future health care – it is important to give very careful consideration to this particularly
- talk to your lawyer about the risks of the document and the effect of the document
- talk to your family and friends
- talk to your doctor—they:
- will have access to your medical history
- can help you understand how a particular illness may affect you
- can discuss treatment options and the effects of those treatments
- if you plan to appoint an attorney for health matters, consider who you want to appoint and talk to them about it.
Accessing the form
You can download a free copy of the advance health directive form. We recommend against completing the document without first obtaining legal advice.
Paper copies are available to purchase from various newsagents and stationery suppliers throughout Queensland.
You can also print a copy at your local library or access a print on demand service.
Completing the document
Refer to the advance health directive explanatory guide while you complete the form. It steps you through each of the questions and will give you useful information, practical examples, hints and tips.
A doctor will need to complete part of the form, so you can ask them to explain your options and any unfamiliar terms. The doctor will assess your capacity to make the advance health directive and may charge a consultation fee.
After your doctor signs, you need to sign the form in the presence of one of these witnesses:
- a justice of the peace (JP)
- commissioner for declarations (Cdec)
- notary public
While your eligible witness does not need to sign the form in front of the doctor, if you and the witness sign the advance health directive as soon as possible after the doctor signs it, this helps confirm your capacity to make the advance health directive.
If your advance health directive appoints an attorney(s) for health matters, your attorney(s) must sign the document to accept their appointment after you and the witness have signed the document. Your attorney(s) do not have to do this immediately; however, they must sign it before they can start making decisions on your behalf.
We recommend that you complete an enduring power of attorney at the same time as the advance health directive. There is some overlap between the documents so we strongly recommend that you check with a lawyer before signing those documents.
What to do with the completed form
You do not have to lodge or register your advance health directive anywhere once you have completed your advance health directive.
However, it is strongly recommended that you:
- keep the original in a safe place
- let your close family and friends know you have made an advance health directive and where to find it.
- give a certified copy to your attorney(s) (if appointed), doctor, other health provider(s), bank or lawyer. This may include your local hospital, where they may add it to your patient file
You could also carry a card that states you have made an advance health directive and where to find it.
You should review your advance health directive at least every 2 years, or if your health changes significantly.
Cancelling your advance health directive
You may revoke (cancel) your advance health directive at any time you have the capacity to do so.
You do not have to complete a specific form to revoke (cancel) your advance health directive; however, any revocation must be in writing and you must take all reasonable steps to advise any attorney(s) (if appointed) that it has been revoked.
To learn about other circumstances when your advance health directive may be revoked or cancelled, see page 19 of the explanatory guide.
What an attorney must do
An attorney has important legal duties and obligations that they must comply with.
It is strongly recommended that a person seeks advice from a professional (e.g. a lawyer) when considering whether to accept appointment as an attorney.
These factsheets explain more about the duties and obligations of attorneys in Queensland:
- Obligations of attorneys under an enduring document
- General and health care principles under our guardianship framework
More information can also be found on pages 22–24 of the advance health directive explanatory guide.
If you do not have an advance health directive
A statutory health attorney may make health care decisions on your behalf if you have not:
- made an advance health directive
- appointed an attorney for health care matters under an advance health directive or an attorney for personal (including health care) matters under an enduring power of attorney
- had a guardian appointed for health care matters by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
Statutory health attorney
Your statutory health attorney is the first person, in this order of priority, who is 18 or older, readily available and culturally appropriate to exercise power for a health matter:
- Your spouse (including a de facto partner and/or civil partner) who is in a close and continuing relationship with you
- Your carer (who is not your paid carer, health provider or service provider for a residential service where you are a resident)
- A close friend or relation who is in a close relationship with you (who is not your paid carer, health provider or service provider for a residential service where you are a resident)
If no one is readily available or culturally appropriate, the Public Guardian acts as the statutory health attorney as a last resort.
Decisions a statutory health attorney can make
A statutory health attorney can consent to most health care decisions, including withdrawing and withholding life-sustaining measures.
A statutory health attorney can’t consent to forensic examinations or special health matters, such as:
- tissue donation
- pregnancy termination
- special medical research or experimental health care.
Only QCAT can give consent for these special health matters.
Responsibilities of a statutory health attorney
A statutory health attorney must apply the general principles and health care principles when making decisions about health matters or special health matters for you.
Learn more about the general and health care principles under the guardianship framework.
The statutory health attorney’s authority ends if you regain the capacity to make decisions. The role is not necessarily ongoing.
- Advance health directive form
- Advance health directive explanatory guide
- Queensland capacity assessment guidelines
- Frequently asked questions—new enduring power of attorney and advance health directive forms
- Factsheet—general principles and health care principles under Queensland’s guardianship framework
To talk about your matter – reach out to us via any means to start a conversation. All of our contact information is listed here on our Contact Page.
The information on this information sheet is general guidance only correct at the time of publication and is not legal advice. You should consult a lawyer for legal advice.