Last updated 15 July 2022

Under s 35 of the Powers of Attorney Act 1998 (Qld) (Powers of Attorney Act), an adult can appoint an attorney to make health decisions. An adult can also convey their wishes about specific health care decisions through an advance health directive.

An advance health directive is a document by which an adult can state their wishes or give directions about future health care for various medical conditions. The document only takes effect when the adult has impaired capacity to make decisions regarding matters covered by the advance health directive (s 36 Powers of Attorney Act).

Under an advance health directive, an adult can give directions about consent to certain future health care, indicate the circumstances under which life support is to be withheld or withdrawn and authorise the restraint, movement or management of the adult for the purposes of health care.

Directives in an advance health directive that would result in the principal’s end of life will not come into operation unless the adult has a terminal illness and is not expected to live for more than one year in a persistent ‘vegetative’ state or coma (s 36 Powers of Attorney Act).

Section 37 of the Powers of Attorney Act makes it clear that this document cannot be used to authorise euthanasia, which is an offence under the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld). For more information on Queensland’s voluntary assisted dying laws see the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2021 (Qld).

A direction in an advance health directive has priority over a general or a specific power for health matters given to any attorney (s 35(3) Powers of Attorney Act).

The adult principal, a doctor and an eligible witness (i.e. justice of the peace, commissioner for declarations, notary public or lawyer) must sign the document (s 44 of the Powers of Attorney Act sets out the requirements of the document). The document can be revoked by advising all attorneys under the document of its revocation in writing or by making a new directive that is inconsistent with the first. Revocation is only possible while the principal has capacity (s 42 Powers of Attorney Act). An adult is presumed to have capacity until it is proven otherwise.