Respecting Your Wishes

If a person is seriously ill and becomes incapable of making decisions for themselves, it will be necessary to find a person who will act as their substitute decision maker (SDM).

A substitute decision maker is a person who makes decisions for the patient when the person is incapable of doing so themselves. An SDM is obligated, under the law, to make decisions based on the previously expressed capable wishes of the patient that are applicable to the situation; or if there are no previously expressed capable wishes, then decisions must be made based on the best interest of the patient.

In the Province of Ontario, there are provisions under the law that allow an individual to express how he or she would want to be treated and who they would want to make decisions for them when they are incapable of doing so themselves.

An Advance Directive gives written instructions of your wishes and preferences for care in different situations.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care allows you to choose who will make decisions for you and can also include a statement(s) regarding your values, beliefs and wishes regarding treatment.

Discuss your thoughts and preferences with your family, and set them down in writing so your own words can speak for you, even if you yourself cannot. Your doctor, nurse, clergy or lawyer should be able to help you obtain more information.