I rise in support of this bill and also in support of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing’s amendment. Advance care directives are a legal document which allow an individual to make clear arrangements for their future health care. This includes outlining how you wish to manage decisions regarding your end-of-life preferred living arrangements and other personal matters.
Advance care directives allow individuals to think about their dying wishes, such as situations that they may want to avoid or that they would find unacceptable. They also allow individuals to communicate other end-of-life wishes, such as the intention to be an organ and tissue donor or considerations such as spiritual, religious or cultural traditions.
This bill forms part of the government’s commitment to amend the Advance Care Directives Act 2013, following a review of the act conducted by Professor Wendy Lacey in 2019 in accordance with section 62 of the act. The bill, if passed, will make improvements in legislation, which in turn will increase the uptake of advance care directives, as committed by the Marshall Liberal government in 2018.
This bill proposes several amendments to the act, including the provision to make copies of advance care directives available to healthcare professionals electronically, to make it clearer that other acts and laws still apply, and to impose clearer requirements on interpreters. This bill will also make it clear that there is no limit on the number of substitute decision-makers who can be appointed, and will also include provisions for listing substitute decision-makers in order of precedence. Lastly, it will strengthen how adults who are vulnerable to abuse are protected by the Public Advocate during resolution of disputes.
I am an advocate for preserving and saving life. The amendment proposed under section 36A is deeply personal and is something that I have grappled with. I do not stand here and pass any assumptions on why a person might attempt to take their own life. What I do stand for here in this place is the assumption that every life is equally important and that we must ensure there is clarity for health practitioners in providing life-saving treatment following an attempt to suicide.
Individuals make personal decisions and an attempt to cause serious self-harm may be a call out for help and may not necessarily mean that person wants to die. The Advance Care Directives Act 2013 ensures that any directives in relation to health care and the provisions relating to end of life are executed only under the most stringent circumstances. This protects the most vulnerable in our community and ensures that the person subject to the advance care directive fully understands the provisions being made.
Affirming life, promoting quality of life, treating the patient, supporting the family, should remain the treating clinician’s primary focus. I believe that an attempt on one’s own life or to cause serious self-harm should rightly suspend any advance care directive and, as such, I again indicate that I am supportive of the Minister for Health and Wellbeing’s amendment introduced under this bill.
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