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Family Law Blog

Estate Law: What is an Advanced Medical Directive?

Estate Law: What is an Advanced Medical Directive?

In BC Law, individuals have the right to decide on future health care treatments should they become incapable of expressing their decision in the moment. This mechanism, known as an Advanced Medical Directive, is a written summary of a capable adult’s instructions (or wishes) to guide a substitute decision maker to make a health care treatment decision on their behalf.

On the flip side, it also allows an individual to refuse specific health care treatments. This can cover risky experimental treatments, or decisions relating to life support or palliative care.

When is an Advanced Medical Directive Suitable?

Like the name suggests, an Advanced Medical Directive applies to future health care only. It doesn’t cover anything relating to financial matters, or personal care. For those instances, we turn to what’s known as a Representation Agreement (more on this later). So, what are the benefits of creating an Advanced Medical Directive?

An Advanced Medical Directive achieves the following goals:

  •   Control over potentially critical healthcare decisions
  •   Removes stress of decision making from family members
  •   Opens lines of communication and makes family aware of potential issues

At this point, it’s important to understand there are certain types of health care that an Advanced Medical Directive doesn’t cover. For example, any health care where the risk to the patient outweighs the expected benefits can’t be covered by an advanced directive. For this reason, this type of document is best deployed in the following circumstances:

  •   When the patient has a specific diagnosis
  •   Treatments for the diagnosis are well-established and safe
  •   The patient is approaching end-of-life, or
  •   Patient is genetically predisposed to a condition and wants to plan

Representation Agreements vs Advanced Medical Directives

Future medical care can conceivably be covered by both a Representation Agreement and an Advanced Medical Directive. If both are in play, which takes precedence? In BC, the representative named in a Representation Agreement ultimately has the final say in health care. However, the representative can’t just ignore the wishes laid out in an Advanced Medical Directive, or other wishes expressed to the representative directly. The representative must act in the following order:

  • Consult with the patient
  • If consultation isn’t possible, comply with the wishes of the patient – if it’s reasonable to do so
  • Comply with instructions received while the patient was “capable” (an Advanced Medical Directive in this instance is instructions received while capable)
  • If no other instructions are available, act in the patient’s best interest

A Representation Agreement can be a good idea because the representative can be given guidelines for decision-making that can be used in a variety of situations that a person may not think to address in a directive.

Learn More About Advanced Medical Directives

If you, or a loved one, is interested in finding out more about Advanced Medical Directives we’d love to discuss your options. Westside Family Law can assist with any legal questions you may have surrounding estate law. Contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.