Briefing doc devised by IHF and Forum on End of Life
The National Council of the Forum on End of Life and The Irish Hospice Foundation (IHF) are urging the Department for Health to develop a Code of Practice for healthcare professionals on Advance Healthcare Directives following the enactment of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act.
The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015, which includes a new provision to legislate for Advance Care Directives, was passed by the Oireachtas on December 17. Under the provision, an adult with capacity can make a legally binding statement, an Advance Healthcare Directive, and refuse any form of treatment. The Directive comes into effect if an adult loses capacity at some time in the future and is unable to make treatment decisions for themselves.
The IHF, together with the Forum, have created an explanatory briefing paper on Advanced Healthcare Directives, its function and the steps involved in making one. The form includes 12 key points of information and an in-depth Q&A section.
CEO of the IHF Sharon Foley, said, “We welcome the legislation, but the priority should be drawing up specific Codes of Practice now, as any delay could cause difficulty and confusion for both patients and healthcare professionals. We are asking the Department to develop a Code of Practice to support healthcare professionals to understand the new law, and for the HSE to initiate training for staff in the use of Advanced Healthcare Directives.
“This provision promotes the autonomy of the patient to make decisions about their future care. It removes any uncertainty about a person’s wishes – allowing family members and medical staff a level of comfort that the care being provided is what that person would want if they still had the capacity to decide. Our briefing document provides a wealth of information on the legal and practical issues around creating an Advance Healthcare Directive and I’d encourage everyone to read it.”
The IHF’s Think Ahead form contains a valid Advanced Healthcare Directive and can be downloaded – along with the briefing paper – on www.thinkahead.ie Hard copies are also available from The Irish Hospice Foundation – contact 01 6793188 for more details.
12 key points on Advance Healthcare Directives (AHD)
- Advance Healthcare Directives have been recognised in common law for some time but the new Act provides for a legislative framework
- Under the new provision, a person aged 18 and over who has capacity can prepare an AHD
- They must put their decisions on future medical treatment in writing and it must be witnessed
- A person can revoke their AHD at any time in writing, providing the person still has capacity to do so.
- No-one can be forced to create one
- Having witnesses is designed to prevent people being forced to make certain decisions
- You can nominate people who will be legally recognised as acting on your behalf at a time
- when you lose capacity and can ensure your AHD is enforced
- An AHD only comes into force when you have lost capacity and cannot make a decision
- It helps healthcare professionals in caring for you the way you want
- It helps families as it removes doubt about what care their loved one wanted
- If there is any doubt about an AHD, a person can go to the courts
- This is not euthanasia or assisted suicide. These acts are illegal in Ireland.