A Personal Directive is a written document that provides your instructions to your named Agent and your caregivers about what your values and priorities are with respect to healthcare decisions, lifestyle choices, organ donation, consents to treatment and refusals of treatments. It is important to have this in writing in advance, because after you lose capacity to make those decisions yourself, you cannot provide instructions to your family or the doctors.
A Personal Directive is a written and executed document in which you give the authority to another person or persons to be your Agent and to make medical decisions on your behalf. It can deal with any personal matter that is of a non-financial nature. This includes: participation in social, educational and employment activities, where you live, your accommodations, healthcare choices, who may associate with you or visit you, and so on. You can also direct how you want to be treated, or not treated, under certain circumstances such as if in a coma, brain injury, etc. However, the directions cannot relate to assisted suicide, euthanasia or other matters prohibited by law, at this time. The law in Canada in this regard is changing and we will soon know what will be allowed.
The authority in a Personal Directive does take effect until after a doctor certifies that you no longer have the capacity to make your own decisions. You are deemed to have lost capacity upon the written certification of a qualified physician or psychologist. The Personal Directive ceases to be effective in periods where you have regained capacity or on your death.
If you do not have a Personal Directive, your family will have to apply through the courts to get an order naming a Guardian to handle your affairs. This takes time and costs your estate significantly more money than executing a valid Personal Directive in advance while you have capacity.
I recommend that you should consult with a doctor prior to executing a Personal Directive to discuss the manner in which different treatment options may affect you.
Another important consideration to think about is whether you want your Personal Directive to be specific with lots of detailed instructions or if you want to keep it general and open. If you keep it general and open, make sure that your Agent is aware of your values, so your Agent can make the proper decision at the relevant time and after consultation with doctors. There are pros and cons to each.
In conclusion, I highly recommend to everyone that a valid Personal Directive is a necessary document regardless of whether you are young or old, regardless of your current state of health.
I would be happy to discuss your wishes and your circumstances and provide you with legal advice and guidance in drafting and executing your Personal Directive.
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