Psychiatric Advance Directives: The New Frontier in Mental Health Law Reform in Australia?
The University of Sydney Law School
Journal of Law and Medicine, Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 891-904, 2009
The legal recognition of psychiatric advance directives is arguably at the forefront of human rights-based mental health law reform in Australia. However, academic discourse in Australia has largely neglected this important development. On the one hand, proponents of psychiatric advance directives believe that such instruments further the rights and autonomy of the mentally ill by allowing consumers of mental health services the right to participate in their own health care when they are competent to make health care decisions. On the other hand, opponents believe that they are undesirable and unworkable in practice and that giving mentally ill persons a right to consent to, or refuse, mental health treatment before the onset of any psychiatric illness does not actually promote or protect the best interests of the mentally ill since future decisions cannot be made about potentially unforeseen circumstances. This article argues that the time has come to consider using psychiatric advance directives in the mental health arena and for amending legislation to be introduced to give them a legal basis.
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Date posted: May 26, 2010 ; Last revised: September 14, 2011