The Law Society studied a consultation paper issued by the Food and Health Bureau (“Bureau”) in September 2019 (“Consultation Paper”) on “advance directives” and “dying in place”.

An “advance directive” is usually a statement in writing, in which a person in a mentally competent state indicates the medical treatment he or she would refuse at a future time when he or she is no longer mentally competent. Making an advance directive is entirely voluntary. “Dying in place” means spending the final days at the place of choice of the patient, be it at home, in a residential care home for the elderly and not necessarily in a hospital.

The Bureau now proposes to:

(a) codify the current common law position in respect of an advance directive and to enhance the safeguards attached to it;

(b) remove legislative impediments to implementation of advance directives by emergency rescue personnel; and

(c) amend the relevant provisions to facilitate dying in place in residential care homes for the elderly.

The Bureau has reviewed the Fire Services Ordinance (Cap. 95), Mental Health Ordinance (Cap. 136) and Coroners Ordinance (Cap 504) and recommended to introduce provisions and legislative amendments to remove legal barriers for advance directives and dying in place.

The Law Society in general supports the legislative proposal to introduce clear legal provisions for advance directives in order to protect the public, their family members and the health professionals. We also support the removal of barriers to facilitate dying in place. On a few matters raised in the Consultation Paper (for example whether a statutory central registry should be set up for the registration for advance directives), the Law Society receives different views. These different views are set out in the Law Society’s submission.

The full submission is at: