The Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker is a a new document introduced in Victoria to allow a person to formally appoint a medical treatment decision maker, who will have legal authority to make medical treatment decisions on their behalf, should they become unable to do so. The Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker replaces the Enduring Power of Guardianship and Enduring Power of Attorney (Medical Treatment), and works in conjunction with the new Advance Care Directive.
Everyone has the right to make their own medical treatment decisions. However, anyone can experience an injury or illness that means they are unable to make decisions, either temporarily or permanently.
If this happens to you, Victoria’s Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 specifies who has legal authority to make medical treatment decisions for you. This person is called your Medical Treatment Decision Maker.
What is the role of a Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
If you are not able to make a medical treatment decision, the medical practitioner attending to you will have to obtain the consent of your Medical Treatment Decision Maker before treating you.
Your medical practitioner will need the consent of your medical decision maker, unless it is an emergency, or you have already consented to, or refused, the particular treatment by way of directions in an Advance Care Directive.
Click on the blue hyperlink for more information about Advance Care Directives.
Your medical decision maker is required to make the medical treatment decision they reasonably believe is the decision you would make if you had decision-making capacity. This is why it is helpful for you to talk to your Medical Treatment Decision Maker in advance about what is important to you and any preferences you have.
How can I appoint Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
Any person who is over the age of 18 years and has full capacity can appoint a Medical Treatment Decision Maker.
Whoever you choose should be someone you trust to respect your values and preferences. You can appoint more than one person, but only one person acts at any one time.
We can assist you in appointing your decision maker by advising you about the legal requirements, practical considerations and how the Advance Care Directive and Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker work together.
When should I make my Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
Now! You cannot appoint a Medical Decision Maker after you have lost capacity. Appointing a decision maker is as much a preventative measure as it is part of a care plan. Accidents or illness can occur without warning and render a person incapable of making medical decisions. Having a trusted person appointed as decision maker assists medical professionals and also avoids worry or disputes for relatives and friends at a time of emergency and high stress.
What should I consider when appointing Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
The most important consideration is to choose a person who is prepared to take on this role for you, and whom you trust to consider what you want. In other words, you should choose someone who is prepared to “stand in your shoes” and think about your values and wishes when making decisions on your behalf. Of course, you can guide or instruct your decision maker by way of your Advance Care Directive if you choose to make one.
How much detail is required in my Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
Not much detail is required in the Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker, other than your details and those of your decision maker and perhaps a backup decision maker. The Advance Care Directive is the document that sets out your values and instructions regarding medical treatment consented to and medical treatment that may be refused.
Who should know about my Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
We advise clients to discuss their appointment of a Medical Treatment Decision Maker with family and perhaps close friends. This is necessary to determine who is willing to assume the responsibility of making medical decisions if you are incapable, and also to let those close to you know that such an appointment is being made. In the event of an emergency, these people will know that someone has been appointed for this purpose.
It is also important to ensure that your medical treatment professional(s) know that a decision maker has been appointed. You can do this personally, or you can ensure that those close to you know where to find your original Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker document and, if applicable your Advance Care Directive.
If you know that you will be going into hospital, it is likely that you will be asked by staff arranging your admission if you have prepared an Appointment of Medical Decision Maker and an Advance Care Directive.
How long does an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker last?
An appointment of decision maker will last indefinitely, unless it is ended by:
- being revoked (cancelled) by the person who made it (while they still have capacity to do so)
- being revoked by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT); or
- the person who made it dies.
If you wish to revoke an appointment (this is often for the purpose of appointing someone else) it is best to arrange the revocation through our office, so that we can ensure that it done properly. We will also advise you to inform your decision maker that their appointment has been revoked and also to inform others who know of the appointment, such as doctors or hospitals.
What are the formalities of making an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
Probably the most important requirement is to ensure that at least one of the witnesses to the signing of the appointment is a registered medical practitioner (medical doctor), or is a person authorised to witness affidavits (e.g. a qualified legal practitioner).
Neither of the witnesses can be a person who is being appointed in the document.
We advise clients to have the document prepared and signed at our office, so that we can ensure that it is appropriately prepared and witnessed by one of our lawyers.
There are also procedures that can be followed for a person who may not be able to physically sign the form, and we can discuss these if the need arises.
Can I change my Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker?
Yes. You can change your decision maker at any time, the easiest way being to have a fresh Appointment document prepared. The Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker document includes as statement that revokes any other previous appointment of a medical decision maker.
Of course, if you decide that you no longer want anyone as your decision maker you can revoke the appointment, as discussed above under the heading, “How long does an Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker last?”.