Representation Agreements and the Assisted-Dying Legislation (Bill C-14)

By Vanessa DeDominicis

A Representation Agreement is a legal planning document which 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. This is a vital Estate Planning document to have in place.

It gives your Representative the legal right to refuse specific medical treatment or any treatment at all on your behalf.

If you do not have a Representation Agreement and you are incapable of making health care decisions for yourself, the current legislative framework allows a health care provider to appoint a person to make those decisions for you on a temporary basis and with a very limited scope of authority (nowhere near the scope a Representation Agreement has). The substitute decision maker can only make certain decisions regarding health care and a Committee will be required for personal care once any health crisis is passed. The decisions made by the substitute decision maker may not be the same as the choices you would make if you were able.

So, a Representation Agreement is a wonderful tool to enable you to have a say in your health care, once you can’t anymore – because you’ve appointed people you love and trust to take on that role, who are guided by your decisions and wishes because you signed the document. So, you are directing them – even when you can’t.

That being said, a Representation Agreement does not give your Representatives the legal right to hasten your death. They can “pull the plug” if you are being kept alive by a machine, but what if you’re not on life support? People with Alzheimer’s or Dementia can live quite healthily for decades, there is no machine to switch off. I often have clients say “If I ever get severe Dementia, pull the plug.” The problem is – there is no plug to pull. Similarly with some terminal cancers, the patient can be living in pain for several years.

With the introduction of the “Assisted Dying Legislation” (Bill C-14) the debate around health care decision makers and euthanasia has never been more rampant. Even though the debate is vivid, my opinion is that very few people will actually jump on the bandwagon to hasten their own death if this Bill does come into force, simply because they just won’t want to address that possibility – it’s easier to black it out and leave it up to fate. It is an extremely difficult conversation to have. So it is much easier to avoid. Que Sera Sera.

That being said, families can be torn apart by these types of end of life decisions, but if you guide them during your lifetime through formalized documentation, you can avoid their turmoil and take away their guilt when that difficult time comes.
This Article is less about whether Bill C-14 should or should not become law, it is about planning for health care, appointing decision makers and putting a plan in place for your end of life care.

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 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.