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Planning for health care

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Health plan: “The Advance Care Plan guide gives people who are in good health and of sound mind the chance to express what is important to them and to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.”

CATHOLIC Health Australia and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have released a document to help ensure people think about their health care needs and discuss them with others.

The Advance Care Planguide, which is accompanied by documents for health care professionals and for people receiving care, gives people who are in good health and of sound mind the chance to express what is important to them and to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so.

Acting chairman of the Bishops’ Commission for Doctrine and Morals Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth said as well as providing a means for people to record the details of their substitute decision-maker, the Advance Care Planencouraged people to talk about those wishes with their family, friends and GP, especially in the event they were called upon to make health-care decisions at a later date.

“There are legal mechanisms in place for a substitute decision-maker to be appointed if someone is unable to make their own decisions, but it is only through the appointment of your preferred person that you can ensure that those decisions will be made in accord with your own wishes,” he said.

“As a person comes to the end of their life and as individuals and families deal with sadness, grief and loss, there are many decisions and personal matters needing to be attended to, and the new care plan kit will offer some comfort in providing certainty about future health-care provision.”

CHA chief executive officer Martin Laverty said it was important any advance care planning tools were able to recognise the various hopes and wishes that people would have, and what care or treatment would be overly burdensome for them.

Mr Laverty said the Advance Care Plan provided a framework that was consistent with the Code of Ethical Standards for Catholic Health and Aged Care Services in Australia, “but it has been designed in a way that will ensure that it is appropriate for people receiving care in any facility and for people of all faiths or none”.

The easy-to-use forms will be made available on the CHA (www.cha.org.au) and ACBC (www.catholic.org.au) websites for use by families, parishes and other community groups.

“Attempts to give this issue the importance it deserves have largely been patchy and incomplete, but our new guides can be used by people across the country to help guide medical practitioners and other health and pastoral care workers in the support they provide,” Mr Laverty said.

A new website will be launched in the coming months to further explain Catholic principles that guide end-of-life care and to assist people wishing to use the CHA/ACBC documents.

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