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Advance Care Planning

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Advance Care Planning is a process which can help you plan your medical care in advance so if you become too unwell to make decisions for yourself, your wishes can still be respected by your healthcare team, your family and carers. It is important for people to think about their healthcare needs and discuss them with others.

This page provides information for people who are considering their future health care needs. It also identifies resources available in the community designed to assist people to talk about advance care planning.

People often need time and help to reflect on the meaning of having a serious, prolonged or life limiting illness. It is often best to seek the support of your personal doctor with whom you can develop a continuing relationship, making it easier to communicate your wishes.

Undertaking advance care planning requires good communication between you, those closest to you and health care professionals.

Advanced care plans and advanced care directives are different.

An advance care directive – is a clear statement that sets out your directions including your wishes and values that need to be considered before medical treatment decisions are made on your behalf. If you have capacity to make these directions, advance care directives can also record what you prefer to have as the goals of any medical intervention if you cannot communicate this for yourself a later time. [There is more information about ACDs below]

An advance care plan – is a process to help you plan your medical care in advance so if you become too unwell to make decisions for yourself, your wishes can still be respected by your health care team, your family and carers. An important part of this is discussing these wishes with those close to you, your GP and other health professionals and identifying who would be your substitute decision maker. In the event that you become unwell and are no longer able to speak for yourself your substitute decision maker is able to act on the advice you have provided them. Your advance care plan should be used by your substitute decision maker and by your carers and health care team to adhere to your values and wishes.

Writing an advance care plan involves some important considerations and steps:

  • The values and beliefs important to you
  • Your current health, possible future health problems and the kind of results from medical treatment that you would or wouldn’t find acceptable
  • Talking to your family, friends, carer, loved ones, doctor or someone you trust with your wishes
  • Choose someone you trust to carry out your wishes to be your Substitute Decision Maker.
  • Write down your wishes and give copies to family, friends, carer/s, your doctor and anyone you want to have a copy

An advance care plan usually has the following parts:

  • Your name and the name and contact of your substitute decision maker
  • Signed and dated by a witness
  • Lists the issues and the type of care that is important to you when you are unable to make your own decisions
  • Lists the medical treatments that you wouldn’t want to receive
  • Other wishes, such as wanting to die at home

Copies of your Advance Care Plan should be given to your substitute decision maker, members of your family or those closest to you and to your doctor. It is important that you check the legal requirements for the state or territory you live in as there are different requirements for formal advance care directives and appointing a decision maker. You could also seek the advice of your solicitor.

Sources of advice on appointing a representative are:

New South Wales 
Office of the Public Guardian, free call 1800 451 510

Victoria Office of the Public Advocate, free call 1300 309 337

Queensland Adult Guardian, free call 1300 653 187

South Australia Office of the Public Advocate,
free call 1800 066 969

Western Australia Public Advocate,
free call 1800 807 437

Tasmania Public Guardian,
ph (03) 6233 7608

Australian Capital Territory 
Public Advocate, ph (02) 6207 0707

Northern Territory Office of Adult Guardianship, ph (08) 8922 7343

Below are links to pages with more information on advance care plans:

Advance Care Planning Australia: This website has comprehensive information for people wanting general information about advance care planning and advice about how to complete an advance care plan. There is a specific section on advance care planning for health professionals.

CareSearch: CareSearch is an online resource of palliative care information. They have helpful material for families and carers, links to clinical evidence on advance care planning and related issues, and information for specific professional groups including nurses and GPs.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has an information page on advance care plans.

The Consumer Health Forum has articles on advance care planning and planning for end of life.

Catholic Health Australia and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have released the Advance Care Plan guide. Click the links below to access:

State information about Advanced Care Directives

Legislation around advance care directives are different depending on the State or Territory you live in. For those who wish to complete formal advance care directives (also known as ‘living wills’ or ‘advance health directives’) and/or legally appoint someone to make decisions for you, the following are links to relevant information in your state/territory:

State and Territory Departments of Health include information about guardianship and powers of attorney or equivalent:


PCA provides these links for information purpose only. It is not responsible for the content of these websites.

If you notice any of the links are broken, or would like to suggest additional information resources to be added, please contact us.




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