What we once called “Living Wills” was re-named “Power of Attorney for Personal Care” in 1995 when the Ontario government changed the laws and enacted the Substitute Decisions Act (SDA) in addition to the Health Care Consent Act (HCCA). If you made Powers of Attorney at all before 1995, they were General Powers of Attorney that covered management of your financial affairs as well as your health care. The new Substitute Decisions Act (SDA) and the Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC) is definitely a change for the better.
Focusing on the Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC), thoughtful lawyers recommend that you not only sign a POAPC, but that you also sign a Schedule that is essentially a “Letter of Wishes”. The “Letter of Wishes” instructs your named Attorney(s) (i.e. your spouse, adult child, or friend) that if there is no hope for your recovery – you want to be let go naturally and not be kept alive by artificial means. You can also indicate that you want medication to keep you comfortable and to manage your pain and suffering. If you feel this way, you should definitely sign a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC) and “Letter of Wishes”. An absence of this “Letter of Wishes” is a statement that you want to be kept alive as long as possible, by any means possible.
Why do you need a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC)? Basically, because hospitals want to avoid litigation and will not take any risks if there are conflicting instructions. What happens in the absence of a POAPC or if the doctors and/or named Attorneys cannot agree on what is in the patient’s best interests is a whole other topic for another day, especially in light of the recent 2013 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in this area that will now govern what happens in these situations moving forward.
I will leave you with a comment that I make to all my clients seeking advice on Powers of Attorney. If you feel strongly that you would not want to live in a vegetative state and feel it would compromise your dignity that you value if that were to occur, then it is vital that you have a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC). The added benefit is that you ease the guilt of your loved ones who will make this decision on your behalf if you do not have the mental capacity to make those decisions for your self. Also, even if you are capable of making that decision yourself, if you don’t have a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC), the hospital with ask you to sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR), when you are already distressed which is less than ideal!
Nachla Law Office is a law firm specializing in all aspects of Family Law, Wills and Estates, and Real Estate. The lawyers and support staff of Nachla Law Office reside in Oakville and are dedicated to the community. They have three lawyers in the office with extensive experience in the areas of Powers of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC), Continuing Powers of Attorney for Property, Estate Planning, Wills and Estates and Probate. Dorisa Nachla is a graduate of the University of Windsor Law School, and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1998.
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