Living Will | Health Care Directives

A Health Care Directive, also known as a Living Will, is intended to speak for a person who is incapacitated and therefore unable to give directions to a doctor, nurse or other health care provider. The most common use is to tell a person's medical professionals not to provide life sustaining treatment in certain situations, although that does not need to be the purpose of the document. It can contain other health care instructions as well, if desired. For example, it could specify that if a certain health matter was in issue, this is what should be done.

In addition to giving general or specific directions about health care, a Health Care Directive can also appoint someone to hold the power to make health care decisions when the maker is not able. This person is called a "proxy". If a person has not appointed a proxy, then the person's spouse has that power (if there is a spouse). Next in line are other immediate family members and then the physician treating the person. This is set out in the legislation mentioned below.

Intended to Speak when Maker is No Longer Able

If a person is conscious and their mental abilities are not affected, then he or she is able to give instructions to a physician without this type of document. That is why the document only deals with situations where a person is unconscious or no longer mentally capable of giving instructions.

Inform your Doctor

It is possible that a physician will hesitate to act on a Living Will/Health Care Directive if he or she is not given advance notice of it and a chance to talk with their patient about it. It is therefore a good idea to provide a copy to the family member named as your representative in it as well as your family doctor. You should talk it over with them to ensure that your wishes are known. This may give them the greater confidence needed to comply with a Living Will.

Some Matters Dealt with In Sask Legislation

You may wonder whether a health care provider will be prepared to honour your directions in a Living Will/Health Care Directive for fear of legal action or other repercussions. Saskatchewan legislation, called The Health Care Directives and Substitute Health Care Decision Makers Act came into force in 1997. It takes those concerns into account. Some of the provisions in the Act are:

  • A person is entitled to sign a Health Care Directive if they are 16 years old and of sound mind.
  • If a Health Care Directive specifically deals with a situation, then the health care provider should follow it.
  • If the document does not clearly anticipate and give directions for the situation, the Living Will is to be used by the health professional for guidance as to the wishes of the person making the directive.
  • If your physicians, nurses and others act in good faith in reliance of the directions in your Living Will, they are generally protected from claims that might be made against them. This helps make them more willing to comply with your wishes.

Revoking a Living Will

A Living Will (also known as a Health Care Directive) can also be revoked if you change your mind about it at a later date. It can be revoked in writing, by destroying the document or even verbally. If you do this, make sure you give the revocation to anyone who knows about the original document so they will know it is no longer in effect.

Notice:The information on this website is general in nature only. It relates to Saskatchewan, Canada and may not be applicable in your jurisdiction. It does not constitute legal advice to you and no solicitor client relationship will be established. A conflict check would also be required before our firm can act for someone. You should seek specific legal advice regarding your circumstances from a lawyer entitled to practise law in your jurisdiction.
* Richard Carlson Legal Prof. Corp. | Wednesday, May 22 2024 01:42 am UTC1 (-6 hrs for Sask)