Victorians have overwhelmingly backed the Andrews Labor Government’s historic new laws giving people greater powers to set directives about future medical treatment, including end-of-life care and wishes.
The Government will today introduce the Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Bill that will recognise advance care directives in legislation for the first time in Victoria, delivering on a key election promise.
Earlier this year the community had its say on the Simplifying Medical Treatment Decision Making and Advance Care Planning position paper to help shape the implementation of the new laws.
Nearly 100 submissions on the position paper were received, with more than 75 per cent supporting the new laws. The laws were overwhelmingly supported by hospitals, health practitioners and professional bodies.
An advance care directive is a legally binding document designed to make a person’s preferences for future medical treatment clear when that person loses the capacity to make decisions themselves.
Existing laws are exceedingly complex and do not provide certainty about how people would like to be supported at the end of their lives.
The Bill will make it clear and simple for health professionals to know a patient’s medical treatment preferences and respect their end-of-life care choices.
A directive includes clear instructions about treatments that a person consents to or refuses. It also features directives about personal values, appointing a medical treatment decision maker and appointing a support person.
People of all ages with decision making capacity will be able to make a legally binding advance care directive. A child’s advance care directive will need to be witnessed by a medical practitioner or psychologist with expertise in capacity development in children.
Anyone who is found to have coerced someone into making an advance care directive could face up to five years in prison, and health professionals who fail to respect advance care directives will face disciplinary procedures.
The Bill takes into account recommendations from Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into End-of-Life Choices. The Government will provide a full response to the Committee’s report in due course.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy
“Our historic news laws will give Victorians the certainty they want and need when it comes to end-of-life care and wishes.”
“We’re putting people’s preferences and values first when it comes to medical treatment decision making.”
“I encourage all Victorians to talk about end-of-life care with their loved ones. It is a difficult, but important discussion to have, so everyone is aware of you and your family’s personal wishes.”