GAIN CLARITY: Retiree Les Neilson takes advice from Debbie Sage, of Attwood Marshall Lawyers.
GAIN CLARITY: Retiree Les Neilson takes advice from Debbie Sage, of Attwood Marshall Lawyers. Yvonne Gardiner

Should you put your end-of-life wishes in writing?

DISCUSSING someone's end-of-life wishes certainly brings a lot of emotion to the table, especially with regard to the debate around euthanasia.

But how far can you legally go? Are "advance care directives" really taken into account?

What if your loved ones cannot find the document?

Is there something more you can do to make sure your end-of-life wishes are taken into account when you expect them to be?

Debbie Sage, of Attwood Marshall Lawyers, believes there is.

"Although there is no prescribed form for an advance care directive in New South Wales (like there is in Queensland), hospital staff are still legally bound to take the patient's wishes into account if they have a copy of the document," she said.

"However we find that most patients end up in hospital due to a sudden illness or accident which does not give them the opportunity to have this document in their possession, causing their end-of-life wishes to sometimes be overlooked."

Debbie says this is where estate-planning documents become so important.

"Attwood Marshall has a large wills and estates practice and have lawyers who act exclusively in this complex area," she said.

"We try to incorporate the wishes of our clients which would normally be reflected in an advance care directive into the Appointment of Enduring Guardian document where possible, so that their guardian is directed to make those decisions in the event they are unable to themselves."  

Tweed Shire resident Les Neilson recently transitioned into care with the assistance of Attwood Marshall Lawyers.

While in care, Les completed an advance care directive.

"However, in order to be sure that his end-of-life wishes were to be taken into account, he incorporated some of the provisions in his advance care directive into his Enduring Guardian document to ensure that his guardian would be able to speak for him in the event the advance care directive was not available or overlooked," Debbie said.

She recommends that clients who have an advance care directive provide a copy to their GP and family members so that loved ones are aware of their wishes.

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