Planning for the future is important, especially when it comes to your health. Putting in place an advance care directive can give you peace of mind knowing that those caring for you understand your treatment choices if you were unable to make the decisions at the time.
What is an advance care directive? An advance care directive is a signed and dated written statement that allows you to share decisions about the type of care and treatment you wish to receive if you were unable to communicate the decisions yourself.
Who can make an advance care directive? Anyone 16 years of age or older with capacity can create an advance care directive that gives instructions for the medical care and treatment they want to receive.
What is capacity? Capacity is the ability to make your own decisions and understand the facts and choices involved, weigh and understand the consequences of decisions and communicate the decision.
Can I assign someone to make decisions on my behalf? Yes. You can name a proxy to speak for you when you are unable to make decisions or to communicate them yourself. A proxy must be 18 years of age and have the capacity to make healthcare decisions.
What should the directive include? An advance care directive can include specific instructions around lifesaving or sustaining treatment, refusing or withdrawing care. It can also provide general principles for the type of care you would like to receive and can include the name of someone you designate to make decisions for you. You do not have to complete a legal form to create a directive for your future care and treatment.
Do I need a lawyer to create a directive? No. You do not need a lawyer to make an advance care directive legal.
Why do I need a directive? If you are incapable of making decisions about your healthcare and do not have an advance care directive, others will make decisions about treatment and care for you as laid out in The Health Care Directives and Substitute Health Care Decision Makers Act. Having a directive in place ensures you get the care and treatment you have chosen.
When should I complete an advance care directive? Making decisions about your care and treatment is something you can do at any time. You do not need to wait until you are injured or diagnosed with a serious illness to create an advance care directive. Early communication ensures that your wishes will be followed for the care you want to receive.
What steps do I need to take once I create an advance care directive? If you have created a directive, share it with your medical team so that they can ensure it is part of your medical chart. You should keep a copy in a safe place and consider sharing it with close family or friends. This is your directive and you can share it with the people you feel need to know what decisions you want followed if you are unable to communicate them yourself.
Can I make changes to my directive? Yes. You can change or revoke a directive orally, in writing, by destroying the original directive, or by making a new directive.
Do doctors, nurses or hospitals have to follow the directive? Yes, healthcare professionals cannot simply ignore your wishes if you have a directive.
Will the directive be valid in other Canadian provinces or outside of the country? It will be valid if it meets the legal requirements of the province or country you are in when you need medical treatment.
Talk with a member of your care team if you would like more information about creating your personal advance care directive. You can also contact the Supportive Care Department at:
Allan Blair Cancer Centre: 306-766-2213
Saskatoon Cancer Centre: 306-655-2662
Click here to download a copy of the brochure Advance Care Directives: Planning Ahead - Honouring Choices.