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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Advance care planning (ACP)

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Advance care planning (ACP) is the process of thinking about, discussing, and writing down your wishes about the type of medical care and treatment you want to receive in the future. In particular, towards the end of your life or when you are not able to make your own decisions.

It's a good idea to think about advance care planning now, before you become seriously ill or injured. It's especially important to think about and discuss advance care planning if you have a terminal condition, are very frail, or have strong opinions about how and where you are treated at the end of your life.

My advance care plan

You may wish to complete an advance care plan to document your preferences and wishes for healthcare at the end of your life. An advance care plan should be completed with the help of your GP or specialist, and be the result of your thoughts and discussions with your family and loved ones.

Your general practice team or specialist can explain to you the details of medical treatments for the very ill or injured, and talk you through the benefits and risks of these treatments. If you wish, they can lodge your advance care plan on your electronic record, to be shared with other clinicians if and when it's needed (for example, if you are seriously injured or unwell and in hospital).

It's very important that, if you make a plan, you give copies to your family and loved ones. You should also keep a copy somewhere that you and those who live with you know about, such as with your enduring power of attorney document, will, and other important documents.


Your advance care plan will only be used if you are not capable of making your own decisions and speaking for yourself.

Next steps

If you are thinking about advance care planning, you should take the following actions:


Let your practice know in advance that your appointment is for an ACP discussion. This will help to ensure that the appointment is long enough. It will also give your GP the chance to prepare before you arrive. Your ACP discussion with your GP might require more than one appointment. Advance care planning is relatively new to the West Coast, and not all general practice teams currently offer this service.

Completing my advance care plan

Print the My advance care plan template and complete pages 2 and 3. If you are comfortable using a computer, it may be easier for you to download and complete pages 2 and 3 of this electronic form. You should complete page 4 of the form with the help of a doctor, or other health professional, because they have to sign that you are competent to make these decisions. Competency is a legal term meaning that you can fully understand the decisions you are making.

If you don't get a health professional to sign the form, other doctors might question your ability to make these decisions. The health professional will help you write down your wishes on page 4 in a way that others will understand when you can't speak for yourself. Page 4 is not easy to complete and you may need more than one appointment to discuss it.

You will need to sign your Advance Care Plan when it is finished and you are happy with it. Once signed, saved and shared, you can keep a printed copy and share it with anyone you want to. You need to keep a record of who has copies, so that you can change all of the copies in the future if you want.

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Information provided by the Canterbury DHB. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Last reviewed November 2017.

See also:

Medical care guidance plan

Page reference: 183693

Review key: HIDLT-326665