Witnesses

Authorised witnesses include Justices of the Peace, lawyers, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers and public servants (more than five years). A full list is available in the Advance Care Directives Guide.

It is your choice whether or not you witness a person’s Advance Care Directive.
Check that you fit one of the authorised witness categories. The full list can be viewed here.

  • You must be independent of the person you are witnessing for, and cannot be:
    • a beneficiary in their Will – for example a family member
    • appointed as their Substitute Decision-Maker or
    • their health practitioner or paid professional carer.
      If there is a chance you will be the person’s health practitioner in the future you should not witness their Advance Care Directive.
  • To be valid, an Advance Care Directive must be completed on the official Advance Care Directive Form. It may be completed in handwriting or electronic text.
  • You should not witness the Advance Care Directive until it has been finalised including signed by any Substitute Decision-Makers (you do not need to witness the acceptance of Substitute Decision-Makers).
  • It is not your role to check the content of the person’s Advance Care Directive.
  • If you think the person is not competent to complete an Advance Care Directive, you can request they provide medical documentation which states that they are.

Advance care directives witnesses

To fulfil your witness obligations you must:

  • Make sure the person has a copy of the Advance Care Directive Information Statement. You may need to read it to the person if they are visually impaired. Translated versions in 15 languages are available here.
  • Certify that the person appeared to understand the Advance Care Directive Information Statement and that they did not appear to be acting under any form of duress or coercion.
  • If you are an interpreter, see the Information for Interpreters page.

Penalties

The Advance Care Directives Act 2013 (SA) contains penalties for making false or misleading statements, as well as penalties for dishonesty, undue influence, or inducing another to give an Advance Care Directive. Maximum penalties are $20 000 or imprisonment for two years.

Process for correct witnessing

  • Confirm that the identity of the person giving the Advance Care Directive matches the details on the Form.
  • Speak with the person alone so you can assess if they are voluntarily giving the Advance Care Directive and to limit the possibility of coercion by others.
  • Give the person the Advance Care Directive Information Statement.
  • Once the person has read the Advance Care Directive Information Statement you can ask questions to make sure that you are satisfied that the person appears to understand the Advance Care Directive Information Statement and that they do not appear to be acting under duress or coercion.
    • What is an Advance Care Directive?
    • When will your Advance Care Directive be used?
    • What types of decisions will it cover?
    • Who will have to follow your Advance Care Directive?
    • Why have you decided to complete an Advance Care Directive?
    • Have you appointed any Substitute Decision-Makers? Why did you choose them? What decisions will they be able to make? When will they be able to make decisions for you?
    • If you haven’t appointed any Substitute Decision-Makers, who will make decisions for you when you cannot?
  • Check whether there are any alterations to the Advance Care Directive (including white-out). You and the person completing the Advance Care Directive should initial and date any alterations. Make sure any blank sections have a diagonal line across them.
  • ​If you are satisfied that the person appears to understand the Advance Care Directive Information Statement and that they do not appear to be acting under duress or coercion, ask the person to sign the Advance Care Directive in front of you. If they are physically unable to sign, your representative can sign this on their behalf.
  • Fill in the Witness Statement in Part 4 of the Advance Care Directive Form. Record your name, occupation and contact details and then sign the form.
  •  Both you and the person must initial each page of the Advance Care Directive in the boxes provided.

Please download this pdf for further information about certifying copies of the original Advance Care Directive Form.

Training

Training is available from the Royal Association of Justices of South Australia (RAJSA) for any witnesses – www.rajsa.asn.au/