Overcoming taboos with advance care planning

Advance care planning can help people break the silence around end-of-life care.  

While societal attitudes towards sex and money have relaxed in the last few decades, there’s an argument to be made that death and end-of-life care are among the most pervasive taboos of our time. 

Statistics quoted by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons underline the point: according to a the advocacy group, around 83 per cent of Canadians surveyed in an opinion poll felt it was important to discuss end-of-life care with a family member, but just 44 per cent had actually done so.  

As the medical field continues to progress, allowing our population to live longer than at any other point in history, the final chapters of our lives are more likely than ever to include a period of disability or serious illness, when we are no longer capable of making our own decisions about our personal care.  

Advance care planning is a way for people to start the conversation about end-of-life care while they are still capable, and ensure their values and beliefs are known and respected, whenever the time comes for them to be put into action.  

But the impact of advance care planning extends much further than the person doing it. It will also make life easier for your loved ones, as well as your future medical providers, because they will be able to refer to your clear expressed wishes when taking healthcare decisions on your behalf, rather than making an educated guess about how you would react to certain treatment options.  

As part of the advance care planning process, a lawyer can help you select an appropriate substitute decision maker and draft a power of attorney for personal care, which typically kicks in when the grantor becomes incapable of handling their own affairs. 

You may also wish to draw up an advance directive, which gets into more specific instructions regarding health conditions and treatment. The level of detail will depend on an individual’s preference, but it should at least cover things like the level of medical intervention you’d be comfortable with in certain situations, as well as palliative care measures. An experienced lawyer can help you make sure everything you want is accounted for in the document. 

Advance care planning and advance directives do not get any specific mentions in Ontario’s provincial estate legislation, but attorneys for personal care are bound by law to respect and follow wishes and preferences expressed by the grantor in advance of their incapacity.  

In my experience, attorneys will usually be grateful for any guidance you can offer, because it can be a huge job taking over responsibility for a person’s health care decisions, including issues like nutrition, shelter, clothing, hygiene, and safety.

Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this website are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.