On September 1, 2011, B.C.’s updated incapacity planning legislation came into effect. The new laws provide more legal options for capable adults to express their wishes and decisions for their future health care, and management of their routine finances and personal care without having to visit a lawyer. Personal planning, including making future health care decisions, is as important as making a will, but is often overlooked.
In BC’s health care law, all people are considered capable of making a health care decision unless they are found incapable.
There is widespread misunderstanding about advance health care directives and who can make them. The legal authority to make an advance health care directive belongs to the individual. While a legally appointed substitute decision-maker can make a health care decision on behalf of an individual, they do not have the authority to make decisions about what type of health care will be provided sometime in the future.
When a capable adult thinks and talks about their wishes for future health care with close family and their health care provider, they are doing advance care planning. Advance care planning enables those who know you best to respect your wishes if asked to make a decision on your behalf.
The Ministry of Health encourages all capable adults in B.C. to do advance care planning, and take the further step of documenting their wishes and instructions for future health care using the tools available in the advance care planning guide, My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment (PDF 4.3M
Advance care planning helps you have a say about the health care you would like to receive if you get very sick and cannot speak for yourself. It is a way for you to reflect on your personal values, wishes and beliefs to make your own future health care decisions.
Your doctor and family members won’t have to guess what you would want if you are unable to communicate.
As long as you are able to make your own decisions, you will guide your own medical care. If you are unable to make your own decisions, your advance care plan will be the guide.
You can make your wishes known in three ways:
- Advance care plan (Beliefs, Values and Wishes)
An Advance Care Plan is a summary of a capable adult’s wishes or instructions to guide a substitute decision maker if that person is asked by a physician or other health care provider to make a health care treatment decision on behalf of the adult.
Keep in mind that your substitute decision maker will be your nearest family member, unless you have named someone else in a representation agreement.
- Representation agreement
A Representation agreement is the document in which a capable adult names their representative to make health care and other decisions on his/her behalf when incapable.
- Advance Directive
Advance Directive is a capable adult’s written instructions that speak directly to their health care provider about the health care treatment the adult consents to, or refuses. It is effective when the capable adult becomes incapable and only applies to the health care conditions and treatments noted in the Advance Directive.
Enduring Power of Attorney – An adult may name an attorney to make decisions on the adult’s behalf in relation to financial affairs and do anything that the adult may lawfully do by an agent (in this case, their attorney) in relation to their financial affairs. POA does not give the person the right to make health decisions in BC, unless they are also the next of kin, recognised by law.
http://www.nidus.ca/ – The Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre is a non-profit, charitable organization. Nidus provides information to British Columbians about personal planning. They also operate a centralized Registry for personal planning documents.
Public Guardian and Trustee of BC -Information on health care consent and making future health care treatment decisions.