The Power of Choice: The Personal Directive
If something happened and you were unable to make decisions for yourself, who would make medical decisions on your behalf?
In the realm of personal well-being and healthcare, few things are as important as having your wishes respected and upheld, even when you are unable to express them yourself. This is where a Personal Directive is valuable. In Alberta, a Personal Directive provides individuals with a powerful tool to ensure their preferences regarding medical treatment, living arrangements, and other personal matters are respected, even when they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.
What is a Personal Directive?
A Personal Directive is a legal document allowing you to appoint someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf should you lose mental capacity. This appointed person is known as your “agent”. You can provide your agent with decision-making authority with respect to health care or residential issues and can include instructions that you want followed such as refusing blood products or end-of-life decisions.
The key feature of a Personal Directive is that it empowers you to express your wishes and values in advance, ensuring that your agent makes decisions that align with your beliefs and preferences. This can help alleviate stress and conflict among family members and medical professionals who might otherwise struggle to determine the best course of action on your behalf.
Creating a Personal Directive
Creating a Personal Directive in Alberta involves several important steps. First, any person making a Personal Directive, known as a “maker”, must be over the age of 18 and understand the nature and effect of a Personal Directive. Significantly, a Personal Directive must be in writing, dated, signed by the maker in the presence of a witness, and signed by that same witness. It is also important to note that there are limits on who may be a witness to a Personal Directive and who may sign a Personal Directive on behalf of a maker.
The Contents of a Personal Directive
A Personal Directive should include the following components:
- Appointment of Agent: Clearly state the name of the person you are appointing as your agent. It is critical to choose someone you trust implicitly to act in your best interests.
- Scope of Authority: Specify the powers and authority granted to your agent. This could encompass medical decisions, living arrangements, and other personal matters.
- Guidance and Instructions: Express your wishes, values, and preferences regarding various decisions your agent may have to make. These could include medical treatments, end-of-life care, and more.
- Alternative Agents: You can also name alternative agents in case your primary agent is unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.
Implementing the Personal Directive
The authority of an agent under the Personal Directive comes into effect when the person designated in the Personal Directive to determine the maker’s capacity makes a written declaration that the maker lacks capacity, after consulting with a physician or psychologist. However, if the person designated in the personal directive to determine the maker’s capacity is unable or unwilling to sign such a declaration, then two health care professionals, at least one of whom is a physician or a psychologist, make a written declaration that the maker lacks capacity to make decisions for themselves. It is important to note that the agent’s decisions must be made in accordance with the guidance provided in the Personal Directive and the best interests of the maker.
The Importance of Planning Ahead
The significance of a Personal Directive cannot be overstated. Planning for the possibility of incapacity or illness is an essential aspect of maintaining control over your own life and ensuring your values are upheld, even when you cannot express them personally. By creating a Personal Directive, you alleviate potential confusion, stress, and conflict among your loved ones during challenging times.
Additionally, the preparation of a Personal Directive facilitates important conversations and open communication within families about personal values, beliefs, and end-of-life wishes. It encourages individuals to engage in thoughtful conversations with their agent and loved ones, ensuring everyone is on the same page and understands the choices that have been made.
A Personal Directive safeguards your autonomy and permits you to have a voice in your healthcare and personal matters, even when you can no longer speak for yourself. By creating a Personal Directive, you take a proactive step in ensuring you retain control over your life and well-being, ensuring your wishes are respected and honoured. Contact the experienced Wills and Estates Lawyers at Vogel LLP today to protect your autonomy!