Changes to Medical Decision-Making Laws in Victoria: What Does This Mean For Your Future?

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By Troy Palmer, Special Counsel, Isobel Feben, Lawyer and Kate Eastaugh, Law Graduate

Following a recent bill passed by the Victorian Government, significant changes to medical decision-making laws in Victoria have been implemented. The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) (“the Act”) came into effect on 12 March 2018, and replaces previous medical decision-making laws stipulated by the Medical Treatment Act 1988 (Vic).

These changes are relevant to all individuals residing in Victoria but more particularly, have widespread implications for individuals with ageing family members and healthcare professionals.

By way of summary, the new provisions introduce key amendments which enable individuals in Victoria to:

  1. Nominate multiple medical treatment decision-makers who can make decisions on behalf of a person who no longer has capacity,[1] as well as elect a support person who can assist in communicating and interpreting respective medical decisions.[2]  It should be noted that only one decision-maker can act at a given time and if a formal appointment is not made, the Act will automatically assign responsibility to family members who are in a ‘close and continuing’ relationship with the relevant person.[3]
  2. Prepare and utilise an Advance Care Directive (‘ACD’). This is a legally binding document which can set out specific instructions, or express certain preferences and values, in relation to future medical treatment.[4] These instructions, preferences and/or values will be binding on a person’s medical treatment decision-makers and healthcare professionals.

These changes overall provide increased certainty and allow individuals to proactively control, and precisely document, their wishes in the event they no longer have capacity to make medical decisions. Additionally, making an ACD may substantially reduce the burden for family members who would otherwise have to make difficult and often undesirable medical choices in absence of clear instructions from their relative. It is also acknowledged that the obligations and accountability of healthcare professionals in Victoria is incidentally heightened, resulting in greater confidence that desired medical treatments will be administered in the future.

In order to ensure that you have an up-to-date advance care planning strategy which will effectively benefit you in line with the revised legislation, please contact Mills Oakley for tailored advice in relation to the above.


[1] Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) s 26.

[2] Ibid s 31(1).

[3] Ibid s 55(3).

[4] Ibid s 12(1).

For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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