The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Bill 2016 passed the Parliament on 24 November, enshrining advance care directives in law.
The default commencement is on 12 March 2018, allowing health services, health practitioners, and the public to prepare for the new laws.
Prior to this commencement date, extensive work will be undertaken to provide appropriate materials and education. The department is working closely with the Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) to develop an implementation and communication plan to prepare stakeholders for the commencement of the Act. This will include the development of a range of information and educational material and workshops to support the community, consumers and providers to understand their rights and obligations under the Act.
This work will begin in 2017 and will be overseen by an implementation advisory group to guide the development of practical resources to support the Act.
A copy of the Act is available at the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents website.
What is the intention of the Act?
Existing laws are fragmented and health practitioners are understandably confused. The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act creates clear obligations for health practitioners caring for people who do not have decision making capacity.
The Act will ensure medical decision making is more in line with contemporary views and is more consistent with how people make decisions about their medical treatment and personal autonomy.
The Act establishes a single framework for medical treatment decision making for people without decision making capacity that ensures that people receive medical treatment that is consistent with their preferences and values.
Victorians will be able to create a legally binding advance care directive that will allow them to:
- Make an instructional directive (which will provide specific directives about treatment a person consents to or refuses).
- Make a values directive (which will describe a person's views and values. A medical treatment decision maker and health practitioners will be required to give effect to a values directive).
- Appoint a medical treatment decision maker (who will make decisions on behalf of a person when they no longer have decision making capacity).
- Appoint a support person (who will assist a person to make decisions for themselves, by collecting and interpreting information or assisting the person to communicate their decisions).
By changing the legislation Victorians can have confidence in the health system, which will respect their decisions about medical treatment.
The Act does not authorise physician assisted dying and, as the Standing Committee on Legal and Social Issues found, this is a separate issue to advance care planning.