Advance Health Care Planning and The Ministry of Health’s “My Voice” Pamphlet

By Vanessa DeDominicis

I have had several clients bring me a “My Voice” pamphlet for discussion during their estate and incapacity planning appointments with me. These pamphlets were given to them during an assessment they had had with Interior Health. They are full of insightful and valuable information about how to express your wishes for future health care needs, either in the event of ‘disastrous incapacity’ due to an accident, or ‘gradual incapacity’ due to Alzheimer’s, Dementia or the like.

The “My Voice” Pamphlet from The Ministry of Health is available online at:

http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2013/MyVoice-AdvanceCarePlanningGuide.pdf.

Whilst the pamphlet provides excellent reading, it is still important to consult with a lawyer to address your legal needs in this regard. A lawyer can help you prepare, for example, a Representation Agreement (which is a legal planning document) that can be used in British Columbia to provide your named representative with the authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so because of mental or physical disability.  A lawyer can help answer your questions and advise you on the possible scenarios that may ensue.

“Living Will” language can also be incorporated into your Representation Agreement which provides the named representative with the legal right to refuse specific medical treatment or any treatment at all on your behalf. A Representation Agreement gives you the opportunity to appoint a person of your choice to make health care decisions for you on an ongoing basis. You set out in what circumstances consent to treatment is to be given on your behalf by your representative and in what circumstances it is not to be given. As well, you can specify acceptable types of treatment.

Without a Representation Agreement, decisions regarding your health care are in the hands of a judge and your health care provider, making a Representation Agreement a very important estate planning document. It will literally provide you with a “Voice” when you are unable to speak for yourself. It will allow you to tell your loved ones how you would wish to be treated (or not treated) should a situation of incapacity occur. It will take away the guilt of these very difficult decisions from your loved ones, because they know your wishes ahead of time. You have effectively given them your “Voice” at a very difficult time when they are unable to speak directly with you about these things. It will avoid conflict amongst them at a challenging time because they will know how you wish the situation to be handled. If they don’t know, this could cause arguments if their beliefs at how you should be treated are different to each other’s, and probably more importantly, different to YOURS. Don’t just give your loved ones the gift of your assets by doing your Will, give them the gift of your VOICE by preparing them for your potential incapacity. That gift knows no bounds.

This is provided as information ONLY; it should NOT be construed as legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to provide you with specific advice for your own situation. For more information on estate planning/incapacity planning and to discuss your specific circumstances, please contact Vanessa DeDominicis on 250-869-1140 or dedominicis@pushormitchell.com. Vanessa practices in the area of Wills and Estates at Pushor Mitchell LLP in Kelowna and would be more than happy to assist you.