Advance Directives and the Promotion of Autonomy: A Comparative Australian Statutory Analysis
Journal of Law and Medicine, 17, pp. 556-581
46 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2010
Legislation regulating advance directives exists in six Australian jurisdictions. In all of these jurisdictions, legislation was enacted to enshrine the common law right of a competent adult to refuse treatment in advance, even if that treatment was required to sustain life. It was thought that enshrining the common law would also enshrine the principle of autonomy on which the common law was based. This article explores whether this is the case by examining the legislative restrictions that are imposed on a competent adult who wishes to complete an advance directive refusing treatment. The article reviews the legislation in all Australian jurisdictions and concludes that, while many of the legislative restrictions can be justified, many cannot as they effectively erode rather than promote the right of a competent adult to refuse treatment.
Keywords: advance directives, refusal of treatment, withdrawing and withholding treatment, legislation, autonomy
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