Peter Mac is helping more Australians maintain control over their health care choices during Advance Care Planning Week (March 21-27).

As Australia’s only public health service dedicated to the treatment and care of people with cancer, Peter Mac is taking a leading role in helping more people plan for the future.

While a Will that plans for personal belongings is very common, fewer people have considered who will make their medical decisions if they cannot. Presently, around 30% of people become too unwell to make their own end-of-life decisions.

Research has shown that advance care planning can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress experienced by families, and that they’re more likely to be satisfied with their loved ones care. 

Dr Sonia Fullerton, Peter Mac Deputy Chief Health Medical Officer, palliative medicine specialist, and ambassador for Advance Care Planning Australia says, “It’s a huge comfort for people making medical decisions to know they are respecting their loved ones values and wishes.”

Only 15% of Australians have a documented advance care directive in their health record, and the number among Australians over 65 is slightly lower, at 14%. 

An advance care directive (sometimes known as a “living Will”) is a document that expresses your wishes about medical treatment, in case a time comes when you are unable to make those decisions

In Victoria, advance care planning can also involve appointing a medical treatment decision maker – also known as a medical power of attorney. This person is authorised to make treatment decisions if the unwell person loses capacity to make them themselves. 

"Advance care planning allows families and carers to feel more confident in making decisions about medical treatment, because they know what the unwell person would and would not want. They don’t have to guess what the person’s preferences would be”, Dr Fullerton says. 

Ms Linda Nolte, Advance Care Planning Australia Program Director, emphasises, “Giving people the best cancer care involves understanding what they value most, and what they would choose if their time was limited.”

Dr Fullerton adds that advance care planning is not just for the elderly to consider, “Medical emergencies are unpredictable. As we have seen during the pandemic, sometimes younger people become so unwell that they cannot voice their own preferences for treatment.” 

“While these conversations can be difficult, they really do make a difference.”

National Advance Care Planning Week is the time to have conversations that matter and document your values and preferences. Make your future health care your choice, by letting those closest to you know your preferences. 

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