The requirements for refusing medical treatment depend on whether or not the patient has the ability to make their own decision and is able to consent to medical treatment.
A patient 18 years of age or older who has the capacity to understand the decision they are making can refuse medical treatment for a current medical condition by signing a Refusal of Treatment Certificate: Competent Person form . This cannot be used to refuse palliative care such as pain relief, and food and water while the patient is still able to eat and drink.
For it to operate, a doctor and another person must sign the Refusal of Treatment Certificate: Competent Person form to verify that the patient is refusing treatment. The certificate specifies the type of treatment being refused and a doctor can only provide treatment consistent with the terms of the certificate.
It is illegal for medical practitioners to treat a patient if they know there is a valid certificate in force.
Most certificates will be signed in hospitals or other facilities, but they can also be signed at home.
The doctor who witnesses the certificate, or the manager of the hospital or facility, must give a copy of the certificate to VCAT within seven days.
If the patient is competent, the certificate can easily be cancelled at any time by the patient clearly expressing or indicating that they want to cancel it. This can be in writing or by other forms of communication.
The patient making the certificate must:
- have been given sufficient information about their condition
- understand this information
- understand what they are doing by refusing treatment
- make the decision voluntarily (advice can be given, but they must not be coerced).
The doctor and the other person must be satisfied that these requirements have been met.