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Advance care planning and voluntary assisted dying

Advance care planning is an important part of end-of-life care. It provides people an opportunity to think about, discuss and document their preferences about treatment and care for a time when they cannot communicate themselves.

Conversations about voluntary assisted dying may arise in the context of broader discussions about advance care planning and end-of-life care. However, a request for voluntary assisted dying will not be valid if:

  • a person requests voluntary assisted dying in an advance health directive or other advance care planning document
  • a substitute decision-maker requests voluntary assisted dying on behalf of another person.

To access voluntary assisted dying, a person must make the decision themselves and authorised voluntary assisted dying practitioners must be independently satisfied that the person has decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying at certain points in the process.

Advance care planning documents and substitute decision-maker authority only come into effect when a person loses decision-making capacity. A person who does not have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying is not eligible for voluntary assisted dying.

Find out more information about the eligibility criteria and assessment process.

Download the Advance care planning and voluntary assisted dying information sheet for consumers (PDF 313 kB).

Advance care planning terms

Advance health directive (AHD) form: This is a legally binding document that can be used in certain circumstances to provide directions about future healthcare and to appoint an attorney for health matters.

Enduring power of attorney (EPOA) short and long form: These documents allow a person to legally appoint an attorney (or attorneys) and set out terms for how the power operates.

Statement of Choices (SoC) form: This is a values-based document that records a person’s wishes and preferences for their healthcare into the future. It is not legally binding and does not provide consent to healthcare in advance.

Substitute decision-maker: This is a person with legal authority to make decisions (except about matters addressed in an advance health directive, if one exists) on behalf of another person, in accordance with that person’s values and wishes. A substitute decision-maker might be:

  • a guardian appointed by a tribunal
  • an enduring power of attorney appointed by the person
  • a statutory health attorney.

More information about advance care planning is available in My Care, My Choices.

Involving family, carers and friends in end-of-life decisions

Healthcare workers may find the following strategies helpful when discussing voluntary assisted dying and advance care planning with people who are considering accessing voluntary assisted dying, their families, carers and friends:

  • Remember that only the person themselves can request voluntary assisted dying—family, carers and friends cannot request voluntary assisted dying on behalf of a person, even if they have legal authority as the person’s substitute decision-maker.
  • Family, carers or friends may ask healthcare workers about voluntary assisted dying and it is appropriate for healthcare workers to answer questions and provide information if they feel comfortable and have the knowledge to do so. Healthcare workers must not inappropriately disclose confidential information about the person. Registered health practitioners and speech pathologists who conscientiously object to voluntary assisted dying have obligations under the Act when a person seeks information or assistance about voluntary assisted dying.
  • Be aware that a person who was assessed as having decision-making capacity at the first assessment may lose capacity at a later point in the process. If this happens, the process may need to cease or be suspended, even if the person’s family, carers, friends or a substitute decision-maker request the process continue or the person expressed a preference for voluntary assisted dying in advance care planning documents.
  • Acknowledge that it may be difficult for a substitute decision-maker and the person they support to understand and accept that the substitute decision-maker cannot make decisions about voluntary assisted dying on behalf of the person, even if they are involved in decisions about the person’s other health matters, such as palliative care options or treatment of underlying conditions.

More information about advance care planning is available in My Care, My Choices.

Useful resources for family, carers and friends supporting a person who has expressed an interest in voluntary assisted dying include:

Last updated: 12 May 2023