In last night’s episode they were using an Enduring Power of Attorney to authorise another person to make decisions such as switching off life support. This document was signed by the two people privately (in hospital) and was not explained by a solicitor.
In NSW an Enduring Power of Attorney allows someone else to deal with your finances and property on your behalf. The word “Enduring” means that it continues to operate if you no longer have the ability to make decisions for yourself (for example, you lack the mental capacity to make those decisions if you suffer from a coma,dementia or brain damage). This document does not deal with lifestyle decisions, or the refusal of medical treatment.
So the question remains….can you authorise someone else to switch off life support? In NSW this is dealt with in a separate document called an “Appointment of Enduring Guardian”. This document allows you to appoint someone else to make lifestyle decisions on your behalf, such as where you live, what type of care and medical treatment you receive and in some circumstances, the right to refuse treatment on your behalf.
As an Appointment of Enduring Guardian is a document that deals with very sensitive issues, each person appointed under that document must have it explained to them by a solicitor who must then sign a certificate to say that the person appeared to understand the document.