Advance Directives

How to make an advance directive?

Any mentally competent adult may make an advance directive. But often the problem is that a person would only consider making an advance directive when he or she has already met with a serious accident or contracted a serious illness. It therefore might not be all that easy to tell if that person is still mentally competent or not. In such circumstances, the attending doctor would make the determination and, when necessary, he may seek assistance from a relevant specialist (e.g. psychiatrist).

There is no legislation or case law that lays down a set of rigid rules on how to make, alter or revoke an advance directive. In theory, such a directive may be made verbally.

However, after all is considered, an advance directive should follow certain procedures. This, on the one hand, may prevent the patient’s family members from subsequently disputing the matter among themselves and thus putting healthcare professionals in an embarrassing position. On the other hand it may prevent patients from making ill-conceived moves prematurely based on undue influence or misleading advice. A carefully considered and well-made directive will not only make the patient’s wishes much more clear to the patient himself or herself, the patient’s family and his or her doctors, but will also make it easier for healthcare professionals to keep a formal record of the patient’s instructions so that they may retrieve it immediately when needed.

To encourage consistency in practice and to ensure the legal enforceability of the advance directives made, the Government has set out a series of guideline as follows: