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What is an Advance Care plan and an Advance Directive?

Advance Care Plan

An Advance Care Plan, or ACP, spells out to family/whānau, those closest to you, those who hold your Enduring Powers of Attorney and your GP your intentions and wishes with regard to your future healthcare needs.  Find a copy of this from the Health Quality and Safety Commission (HQSC) Advance Care Plan for Consumers

Living Will or Advance Directive

An Advance Directive allows you to provide more detail about specific health situations you may find yourself facing in the future (e.g., a severe stroke, advanced dementia), and how you want them managed. It conveys your wishes should you not be able to speak for yourself, for example if you are unconscious and decisions need to be made. It allows you to indicate what sort of treatment/s you would like and/or the situations that you would not give your consent to.

In reality, thinking through each possible situation can be complex, time-consuming and difficult. It’s important therefore to discuss this with your healthcare team.

While you may wish to refuse medical treatment, which is a right under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, the doctors following your directives must act within the law. They need to be assured that you were competent to make the decision at the time, that you were sufficiently informed and that you weren’t being pressured. They will also need to establish whether the directive applies to the situation at hand. You can therefore understand the importance of making a written, dated and signed directive (even though this is not compulsory).

It’s important to let family, your Enduring Powers of Attorney and your healthcare team know you have made this plan and/or directive. Talk these issues over and review your plan and directive frequently. If this is done as a matter of course, family are ‘up to speed’ and health professionals in a better position to know your intentions when important decisions need to be made. Keep this document with your other important papers.

These workbooks and templates have been designed to help you think through the issues you need to consider and to guide you through the process. (An electronic version is available.)

Updated: 11 Jun 2024
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