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1. Do I need legal advice before making an advance directive?
Not necessarily. But the Government encourages you to seek professional opinion before you make an advance directive. More importantly, you should discuss this with your family, and your family members are encouraged to be present when you make the advance directive.
2. I have already made an advance directive. What else do I need to do?
You should inform your family members, your healthcare professionals and your attorney/trustee (if any) about any advance directives that you have made. This is crucial. Tell them the details of the advance directive and why you have chosen such care. You may consider providing each of them and your lawyer with a copy of your advance directive. You should make sure that your attending doctor is informed of your advance directive.
3. Do I have to use the prescribed form to make or cancel advance directives?
No.The use of the model form is not a necessary condition for making a valid advance directive. It remains a matter for you to decide whether or not you wish to execute an advance directive in the form proposed, but the proposed form was designed by professionals. Using the suggested form correctly would very much increase the chance that your wishes will be carried out.
4. What should I do if my family members disagree with my advance directives?
Your healthcare professionals are required to act in your best interests and respect your wishes. In case of conflict, your right of self-determination shall prevail over your family’s wishes. That said, the Government encourages you to discuss the matter with your family members before making an advance directive and to let them accompany you when you make the directive. The Government also encourages your attending doctor to communicate with your family members and help them understand and respect your wishes.
5. Can I ask medical practitioners to perform euthanasia on me in my advance directive?
While one’s right of self-determination should be respected, you cannot make an advance directive that contradicts the law or a medical practitioners’ code of conduct. One common example is euthanasia (i.e. assisted suicide), which is defined as “directly and intentionally ending the life of a person as part of the medical care being offered”. This is illegal under Hong Kong law.
Simply and roughly put, the difference between an advance directive that declines life-sustaining treatment and assisted suicide is that the former is asking doctor to stop administering certain treatment passively and allow the patient to pass away naturally, whereas the latter is asking the doctor to perform certain acts actively and make the patient die artificially.
Assisted suicide thus involves a third party’s illegal acts of murder or aiding suicide etc. Hence, assisted suicide is both medically unethical and illegal. Even if a patient expressly requests assisted suicide to be administered, such requests cannot and should not be carried out.