By Ann David, President of the End-of-Life Choice Society NZ 

Pulling out of medical treastment

Under certain circumstances, you might not want medical treatment designed to extend or prolong life.  It is your right under the Code of Health and Disablity Consumers’ Rights to refuse or withdraw any medical treatment you do not want. While you are conscious and mentally competent, you can simply tell your doctor your preferences.  But what if you lose mental competence?  Who speaks for you then?

Your “Advance Directive” does. 

An Advance Directive (aka Advance Care Plan or Living Will) is a document that specifies what medical treatment you would and would not want should you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to speak for yourself – for example through accident, stroke, sudden or long-term illness.  

Promoting Advance Directives

The End-of-Life Choice Society has been promoting Advance Directives for two decades.  Any member of the public is welcome to consult or download our 20-page “Guide to Dying Your Way” booklet free of charge at https://eolc.org.nz/advance-directives   The Advance Directive form is appended at the end.  Just print out the form, complete and sign in front of a witness – preferably your doctor. Most doctors will be happy to act as witness.  A good second choice would be a JP.  

Ask your doctor to upload your Advance Directive to your medical centre records.  Request your doctor to also send a copy of your Advance Directive through to the hospital system also, as private GP clinics and the hospital system don’t automatically interact. 

Remember to review and re-sign your Advance Directive at least every 5 years and have your signature re-witnessed each time you re-sign.   Appoint an Agent (willing, trusted other person such as partner, child or dear friend) and make sure your Agent has a copy of your Advance Directive. 

A properly witnessed Advance Directive is a legal document and medical personnel are obliged to observe it, provided your requests are within what the law allows.  If personal control is important to you, this is too important to be put off to tomorrow.