Social Work Services - Legal & Financial - The Prince Charles Hospital (Queensland Health)
A hospital admission can raise legal and financial issues which may require the sourcing of an authorised substitute decision maker, who can make decisions on the person's behalf. It may be the person has been admitted acutely and temporarily cannot make decisions at the time of admission, or due to a health condition may no longer have decision making capacity.
Advice on capacity assessment can be obtained from the Social Worker.
If capacity is an issue, options about how to manage lack of capacity will be discussed with you by the treating team and the following options may be available to you.
Statutory Health Attorney
A Statutory Health Attorney is someone with automatic authority to make health care decisions on behalf of an adult whose ability to make decisions is permanently or temporarily impaired.
There is no need to fill out forms or formally appoint a Statutory Health Attorney. A person can act in this role when the need arises because of their relationship with the patient (e.g. spouse or primary carer).
For more information refer to the Department of Justice website (external site).
Enduring Power of Attorney
Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document a person signs which gives someone the power to make personal, health and/or financial decisions on their behalf. "Enduring" means that the power continues when the person loses the capacity to make the decisions themselves.
When an Enduring Power of Attorney is completed, the financial power may start immediately however the personal/health power does not start until the person is deemed to have lost capacity to make their own decisions.
The decisions made by the Attorney have the same legal force as if the person made them themselves, so it is a document which needs to be thought about carefully. You may want to discuss this further with the Social Worker.
For more information and forms refer to the Department of Justice website (external site).
A will is a legal document. It nominates a specific person (the Executor) to act on behalf of the person making the will (the Testator) to distribute the Testator's possessions and assets according to his/her wish in the event of his/her death. The Social Work Department can provide information and assist in the process when required. For more information refer to the Public Trustee website (external site).
What if a person doesn't have capacity?
The issue of whether a person has decision-making capacity is not simple and does need to be assessed by a medical team. If a person is assessed as having impaired decision-making capacity, then another person must be legally authorised to be able to make decisions on their behalf, despite the closeness of their relationship. The impairment might be the result of an intellectual disability, acquired brain injury, dementia, mental illness or some other cause. If there is no-one who has the authorisation to make decisions, such as through an Enduring Power of Attorney, then your next step is to make contact with the Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal (QCAT) (external site).
Queensland Civil and Administration Tribunal (QCAT)
QCAT is a government organisation with the authority to determine whether or not a person with impaired decision-making capacity needs a guardian or administrator and if necessary make an appointment order. If you need to gain legal authority to manage a persons financial affairs or make lifestyle decisions on their behalf then you can make an application to QCAT with a medical report confirming the Adult has impaired decision-making capacity. The QCAT holds hearings with one to three panel members to discuss your application and to then make a decision regarding who can act as the administrator for financial matters or as guardian for personal and health matters. The QCAT can appoint the Adult Guardian and the Public Trustee if there is no else available.
If however, someone does have authority to make decisions via an EPOA and there are concerns they are not making decisions in the best interest of the person with impaired decision-making ability then you can contact the Office of the Adult Guardian. For more information refer to the QCAT website (external site).
Office of the Adult Guardian
The Adult Guardian is an independent statutory officer established to protect the rights and interests of adults with impaired capacity. The Adult Guardian has the power to investigate a complaint or allegation that an adult with impaired capacity is being neglected, exploited or abused. The Adult Guardian can also provide consent to medical treatment when there is no statutory health attorney available and telephone advice to attorneys. For more information refer to the Office of the Adult Guardian website (external site).
Here are some links to useful websites (external sites) for agencies which provide information, advice and legal services.
Legal Aid Queensland
A comprehensive service directory on legal matters and related areas.
People without any financial means can contact the Magistrates Court in their area to request assistance. Following are some useful websites: