In Health

Western Australia Minister for Health Kim Hames

New Laws To Respect Wishes For Future Health Care

Victor P Taffa

Western Australians will be able to make important decisions regarding their future medical treatment and lifestyle choices, under new legislation which takes effect today.

Health Minister Kim Hames said new laws would give any competent adult the right to document their future wishes to consent to or refuse medical treatments.

“This is progressive legislation which will allow people to make important decisions about their health care and lifestyle, in anticipation of a time when they may be unable to make the decisions for themselves.” Dr. Hames said.

“It will, for the first time, provide a legal framework which will protect an individual’s wishes about the medical treatment they receive in the event of incapacity.”

“It also provides important legal protection for doctors and other health professionals who carry out the wishes of these patients and their guardians.”

The legislation will allow adults to make an Advance Health Directive – a legal document in which an adult with full legal capacity expresses their wishes in relation to future treatment decisions.

It will also allow for Enduring Powers of Guardianship where an adult can legally appoint a person to make important personal decisions on their behalf in the event that they lose their capacity to make their own decisions through accident or illness.

The legislation was first introduced by the previous Labor Government in June 2006.

The Acts Amendment (Consent to Medical Treatment Act) 2008 was passed by both houses of State Parliament in June 2008 following a conscience vote. The new regulations, which enable people to complete an Advance Health Directive and an Enduring Power of Guardianship, come into effect today.

The Minister said people could choose to use either measure or both if they wished.

“The legislation will be accompanied by targeted education and training for health professionals and other related service providers.” Dr. Hames said.

Initiatives will include:

  • Online learning program for health professionals,
  • Telephone inquiry lines for the public:
  • Advance Health Directives-9222 2300 and
  • Enduring Power of Guardianship 1300 858 455
  • Consultation with major hospitals and palliative care organisations,
  • Resources for the general public, including booklets about preparing an Advance Health Directive and Enduring Power of Guardianship.

“It will be crucial to communicate these legislative changes to a range of health professionals, key services providers and to members of the public.” Dr. Hames said.

“These measures will ensure those most affected by the legislation are provided with information about the meaning and processes surrounding the legislative provisions and that they are provided with sources of information and advice.”

Advance Health Directives will be implemented by the Department of Health and Enduring Powers of Guardianship will be implemented by the Office of the Public Advocate.

 

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