Your personal directives…

There have been a couple of articles in the news this week related to the importance of preparing one’s own personal directives. These have many names including “advance directives” or “living wills” but in essence it is communicating the type of healthcare that you wish to receive if you unable to speak for yourself or in an irreversible vegetative state.

The Edmonton Journal had an article about the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta who educate the public on the importance of drawing up a Power of Attorney, personal directive and Last Will and Testament. They make some great points in the interview; “It’s going to take some time and effort to think about your beliefs, gather the information, meet with your loved ones and write the documents, but it can save enormous grief… Your partner may not have the legal authority to make the decisions. If parents don’t like their child’s spouse, who would make decisions if there’s a family conflict?…There is no big automatic legal right, and you do need these documents in place.”

It really is a legal quagmire and although you may consider it unlikely, the benefit of having these documents in place by far outweighs the inconvenience of creating them (about 30 minutes of your time at LegalWills and $10.95 for a Living Will including personal directives and a healthcare Power of Attorney).

But really, what are the consequences of not putting these documents in place? well this morning the news in Toronto was full of the tragic story of Hassan Rasouli. The headline is scary enough; Family goes to court to keep dad alive: ‘He talks to us with his eyes’ But the details of the story are heartbreaking – “His doctors at Sunnybrook say they’ve done all they can do for Rasouli, that he is in a permanent vegetative state and that their medical judgment compels them to remove the ventilation keeping him alive.” but “Parichehr Salasel, Rasouli’s wife and substitute decision-maker… a doctor in Iran prior to the family’s arrival in Canada a year ago, believes he is improving and that removal from the ventilator would breach his Muslim beliefs.”

This is of course not an unusual situation; the article is a stark reminder of the Terri Schiavo case about 10 years ago, and the law changes that were put in place as a result.

It’s a terrible situation and the law (in Canada at least) appears to be very unclear as to who has the right to determine whether this man should live or die. The complex ethical arguments are included in the main article and so I am not going to repeat them here, but the real lesson is that this case is with the Ontario Court of Appeal and a judge will make this life and death decision.

This situation will always be tragic, but creating a detailed personal directive can give you a voice in this argument. If we knew what Mr Rasouli would have wanted, then his views would surely carry a great deal of influence in this decision. Any time a family is left with a court battle on their hands against the healthcare and legal communities, it is a desperately difficult ordeal.

So, create a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Personal Directive (Living Will) today, and spare your family some very difficult decisions. You don’t need the services of a lawyer  or solicitor to do this, you can do it in a few minutes at, and