Deciding For When You Can’t Decide: The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic)


The Australian state of Victoria introduced new legislation regulating medical treatment and associated decision-making in March 2018. In this article we provide an overview of the new Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic) and compare it to the former (now repealed) Medical Treatment Act 1988 (Vic). Most substantially, the new Act provides for persons with relevant decision-making capacity to make decisions in advance regarding their potential future medical care, to take effect in the event they themselves do not have decision-making capacity. Prima facie, the new Act enshrines autonomy as the pre-eminent value underlying the state’s approach to medical treatment decision-making and associated surrogate decision-making. However, we contend that the intention of the Act may not accord with implementation of the Act to date if members of the community are not aware of the Act’s provisions or are not engaged in advance care planning. There is a need for further research, robust community advocacy, and wider engagement for the intention of the Act—the promotion of “precedent autonomy” in respect to surrogate medical treatment decision-making—to be fully realized.

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Courtney Hempton receives funding from the Australian Government (Research Training Program Scholarship).

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Correspondence to Courtney Hempton.

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Hempton, C., Bhatia, N. Deciding For When You Can’t Decide: The Medical Treatment Planning and Decisions Act 2016 (Vic). Bioethical Inquiry 17, 109–120 (2020).

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  • Health law
  • Bioethics
  • Decision-making
  • Surrogate decision-making
  • Advance care planning
  • Advance care directives