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Advance Care Planning

Plan for your Future Health Care Decisions

No one knows what tomorrow will bring. Many people write a will and plan their funerals in advance so that family members know their wishes. But few people think they could have a serious illness one day that may leave them unable to make health care decisions.

If you are seriously ill and in need of health care, but are incapable of making your own decisions, do your close family members, or friends know your wishes for health care? Do they know what medical procedure you would agree to, or refuse? By planning in advance, family and loved ones are better able to ensure wishes are understood and met in the event of a medical crisis.

What is Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning is the process of a capable adult talking over their beliefs, values, and wishes, about the health care they wish to consent to or refuse, with their health care provider and/or family, in advance of a situation when they are incapable of making health decisions.

This process may include making an Advance Care Plan or an Advance Directive.

  • An Advance Care Plan is a written summary of a capable adult's beliefs, values, wishes and/or instructions for future health care based on their conversations with family, friends, and health care provider.
  • An Advance Directive is a written instruction expressed directly to the capable adult's physician or other health care provider, or to their Representative*, if they have named one in a Representation Agreement**, for the health care they wish to consent to, or refuse.

* Representative is a person named by a capable adult to make health care decisions on behalf of the adult, if they become incapable.

**Representative Agreement is a document in which a capable adult names a Representative and sets out the type and scope of decisions that the Representative may make on behalf of the adult, if they become incapable.

What should you know about Advance Care Planning?

Advance Care Planning basics consist of the following steps:

  • Discussing with family/friends and health care provider(s) about your beliefs, values and wishes
  • Identifying and writing down future health care treatment - which medical interventions to accept or refuse
  • Writing down the contact information for the people who qualify to be your decision maker, if you become incapable in the future

What are your Options?

With B.C.'s latest Incapacity Planning legislation in place (News Release, dated Sept 6, 2011), capable adults are now able to choose from various options to express their wishes and decisions for their future health care, management of their financial routines, and personal care.

The options include:

  1. Decision made by Temporary Substitute Decision Maker
  2. Decision made by named Representative (with Representation Agreement)
  3. Decision made by name Representative (with Representation Agreement & Advance Directive)
  4. Decision made by capable adult (with Advance Directive)

More information on these choices and how to protect your loved ones can be found in the new Ministry of Health Services Advance Care Planning guide, My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment (link to PDF), along with the Advance Care Planning Frequently Asked Questions (link to PDF). For a tip sheet about using the My Voice guide, click on the link to Advance Care Planning Guide Quick Tips(link to PDF).

Have a Plan, Express Your Wishes

Once you have an Advance Care Plan, or an Advance Directive be sure to give copies to your physician, family members and close friends and keep a copy for yourself in an accessible place. Review your plan from time to time, particularly if your medical condition changes.


Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST)

MOST supports physicians to provide quality patient-centred care planning, and at the same time allowing patients to think through and discuss options regarding life sustaining treatments.

MOST Resources:


Listen to:

Dr. Richard Raymond discusses the importance of Advance Care Planning.


Additional Resources

There are several resources that can help you start the conversation about advance care planning. The following websites will provide valuable information:

Advance Care Planning
Information about advance care planning and advance directives.

Ministry of Justice:
Incapacity Planning Information about Representation Agreements and Enduring Powers of Attorney with links to current Legislation

Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia:
Personal Planning
It's Your Choice - (PDF) personal planning tools (publication)
Adult Healthcare Decisions - (PDF) Information on substitute health care decision making

Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry:
Personal Planning - Several resources to assist in planning for future decision

Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation:
Guide to Aboriginal organizations and services in British Columbia (lists 800 community-based services and organizations)

HealthLink BC:
Care at End of Life
Should I Receive CPR and Life Support?


SeniorsBC - resources on active aging, health, nutrition, physical activity, injury prevention, financial and legal resources, elder abuse prevention, to mention just a few topics of interest.