The AMA has adopted a formal position on advance care planning.
AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal said today the AMA supports advance care planning as a way to provide a competent patient with the means to articulate their current health care goals and values, and to participate in future health care decisions should he or she lose decision-making capacity.
"The AMA respects the important role advance care planning plays in facilitating patient autonomy and self-determination in health care decision-making," Dr Haikerwal said.
"As part of the advance care planning process, the AMA supports the use by patients of advance directives and/or the designation of a surrogate decision-maker, such as an Enduring Power of Attorney.
"We encourage patients to consider and discuss their current goals and values around health care with their doctor and family members.
"Advance care planning can be part of a health care discussion with patients of all ages in the community, hospital, or residential aged care facility.
"The doctor has a key role to play in developing individual advance care plans by providing guidance and advice to patients, in discussing treatment issues and options relating to future incapacitating conditions, and discussing what future health care options might be available.
"It is important that people make decisions about their future heath care when they are competent to do so, are fully informed, and have had enough time to receive, understand and appreciate the information on health care options and treatment that they have discussed with their doctor.
"The AMA encourages patients to regularly review their advance care plans, and ensure that their doctor and family members are aware that the plan exists and where it is kept.
"The AMA upholds patients' rights to make decisions about their health care in advance.
"However, we also believe that making decisions in advance cannot always encompass every unforeseen possibility, option, or health care scenario.
"While respecting the role of patient autonomy in the advance care planning process, doctors' clinical independence must be protected in order for them to act in the best interests of their patients."
Dr Haikerwal said the AMA is calling for clear, nationally consistent advance care planning legislation that recognises this clinical independence.
"We also want clear and nationally consistent guidelines developed on the preparation, notification, and storage of advance care planning, including the use of consistent pro-formas, and the potential for a national registry," Dr Haikerwal said.