Representation Agreements vs. Health Care Directives

By Vanessa DeDominicis

A Health Care Directive allows you to state your decisions in writing regarding your future healthcare treatments in the event you are unable to communicate them, such as consenting to or refusing life support or life sustaining medical care.

These directions must be followed by your healthcare provider, as long as they are aware of them. A Health Care Directive does not appoint anyone to make health care decisions for you. If a decision must be made and the situation was not addressed in the Health Care Directive and you do not have a Representation Agreement, your healthcare provider will make reasonable effort to appoint a Temporary Substitute Decision Maker to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot (which may not be the person who you would have chosen to act for you).

A Representation Agreement allows you to appoint a person to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to communicate your healthcare wishes in the future. The person or person(s) you appoint must follow the wishes that you expressed while capable. This gives you control over who will be acting on your behalf in relation to your health care.

A Representation Agreement is a much more sophisticated incapacity planning document as it is not simply an expression of wishes in relation to consenting to /refusing treatment; it allows you to plan for the following, for example:

  • Who you would like to make your health/medical/personal care decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated?
  • What types of heath care treatments you would consent to or refuse if a healthcare provider has recommended them?
  • Under what circumstances would you consent to or refuse these types of treatments?
  • What type of extended health care facility would you prefer to live in, in the event that you are unable to be cared for at home?

While a Health Care Directive is certainly better than nothing, and will deal with “worst case scenario” situations if you have an upcoming surgery for example, but a Representation Agreement is definitely recommended as the preferred health care planning document, especially given the increased periods of incapacity that the older generation is facing, due to Dementia or Alzheimer’s for example.

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.