Dr. Sue Hughson: 3 things I learned while completing my advance care directive

I first thought about the importance of advance care planning after I became a supporter of Dying With Dignity Canada. As a mother of two children, I needed to think not only about end of life, but also the unforeseen circumstances that pop up in daily life.

Dr. Sue Hughson

Vancouver veterinarian Dr. Sue Hughson.

I did my advance care planning training seminar with Marcie Hogan of our Salt Spring chapter, and from there, I completed my advance care directive, my representation agreement and my will within days while the information was fresh. This was all before the Carter decision in 2015.

The top three things I learned while completing my advance care directive was:

  1. People procrastinate. Find a friend or a small group of people and help each other finish the paperwork.
  2. Thinking about your own death helps you to become really specific about what you do and do not want at end of life, or when you have an acute trauma that leaves you unable to speak for yourself.
  3. Having these documents prepared gives you and your family peace of mind.

My children, who have always supported my work with DWDC, are young adults who are at the age where death appears remote, and thinking about the death of your parent is uncomfortable. Throughout my ACP process, I prepared my documents, discussed their contents with my children and informed them of where I store them. My representatives are trusted friends known well by my kids. While I hope that my end of life will be gradual and will involve future discussions with my family, it is a great relief to me that I have excellent representatives should something happen to me acutely.

On a provincial level, British Columbia’s legal landscape has shifted. Unlike other provinces and territories, B.C. recognizes advance directives as legally binding documents. These documents are now a legal option for all capable and consenting adults who want to start advance care planning.

To reflect this new legal landscape, one of our Vancouver chapter members, Connie Jorsvik, has updated our ACP seminar for British Columbia, and we have events planned for the spring and fall. Since advance care planning is one of the cornerstones of end-of-life planning, I believe it is important for us to get the conversation started now. Simply put, advance care planning will help give you peace of mind — no matter what stage of life you’re in.

Dr. Sue Hughson is a Vancouver-based veterinarian and a member of DWDC’s Board of Directors.