Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Considerations to Explore before Making an Ontario Power of Attorney for Personal Care:

This week at Wise Law Blog, we are exploring Powers of Attorney for Care, and end-of-life care decisions, generally.  Join us as Simran Bakshi, Student-at-Law, considers a the questions and concerns around appointing an Attorney for Care and completing an Ontario Power of Attorney for Care document.
The decisions involved in advance care planning are among the most difficult that you will be called upon to make. Accordingly, it is important to begin the decision-making process by turning your mind to the following considerations:

Who should you consider to be your Attorney for Care?

At the risk of stating the obvious, the individual named as your Attorney for Care should be someone who you trust. Keep in mind that this person is not only responsible for carrying out your expressed personal care wishes, but may also be called upon to make major medical decisions that you did not contemplate or communicate. In such circumstances, you should feel confident that your Attorney for Care will reach decisions that are both in your best interest and in line with your values and beliefs.

The question of who to appoint as your Attorney for Care is an intensely personal decision; however the following are some guidelines that may help you in making your selection:

Choose someone that you are comfortable discussing your end-of-life care decisions with:
Consider whether this individual actively listens to and understands what your values and beliefs are. Do you feel assured that this person truly understands how you view life to be meaningful or less meaningful?

Choose someone who respects your wishes?
Ideally, you should choose someone who shares your own values and beliefs. Your Attorney for Care will be far more likely to carry out your personal care wishes if he or she shares your perspective on the issues underlying the decision to be made. At the very least, however, this person should respect your autonomy to make what are often controversial decisions with respect to your end-of-life care.

Choose someone who will be comfortable acting as an advocate for your values and beliefs?
It is important to explore whether an individual holds any religious, ethical or moral beliefs that may affect his or her ability to carry out your personal care wishes. End-of-life care decisions will almost always raise controversial issues (i.e. euthanasia, assisted suicide etc.) that may be at odds with a person’s sense of identity.

Choose someone who will likely be available to act as your Attorney for Care?
From a practical perspective, it is necessary to choose an individual who will likely be available if and when he or she is required to act as your Attorney for Care.  Consider whether there are any logistical issues, or support obligations that may make it difficult for this person to be present at your bed side on short notice were the circumstances to call for it.

How should you make your personal care decisions?

While there are certainly no right or wrong answers with respect to your personal care choices, it is important to make an informed decision. The following are some guidelines to help you reach such decisions:

Explore your personal values and beliefs:
As a starting point, define what you believe gives your life meaningful purpose. In particular, consider the significance you attach to independence and self-sufficiency, your position on prolonging life through artificial means, and your expectations for quality of life. The underlying question to address is what measures you would want to be taken if there was no meaningful chance of recovery.

Consult with a health care professional:
It is highly advisable to consult with a health care professional before reaching any decisions as this will help you truly understand both the nature and significance of the choices you are making. Further, it will ensure that you reach decisions that are suitable for your state of health.

Discuss your choices with your loved ones and potential Attorney for Care:
You may choose to involve your family, close friends, care providers and/or your Attorney for Care in your decision-making process. Open lines of communication may help to ensure that you have considered all perspectives before arriving at a decision and that your wishes are clearly understood by your loved ones.

- Simran Bakshi, Student-at-Law, Toronto

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