Advance care directives

When it comes to bridging the gaps in the system, understanding the problem is the critical first step.

When it comes to making decisions at end of life, making an advance care plan is one of the best things you can do to ensure the care you want.

Unfortunately, though, even if you lay out a detailed plan and communicate it to the people in your life, it’s not guaranteed that your wishes will be honoured. This is a big problem, and more needs to be done to ensure that Canadians’ plans are communicated to the right people, understood and, ultimately, respected.

At Dying With Dignity Canada, we know that there is no simple fix to the flaws in the system that prevent people’s wishes from being followed. As part of our commitment to protecting Canadians’ rights and choices, we examine — and speak out about — the different factors that contribute to the problem. Some of those factors include:

  • Rules around advance care planning that are sometimes unclear and can vary from one province or territory to another;
  • A health system that doesn’t do enough to prepare clinicians to initiate conversations about planning for end of life;
  • A lack of a central registry where first-responders or clinicians could access advance care plans and Do-Not-Resuscitate orders;
  • Disagreement within families about an incapacitated person’s wishes for care, which can cause serious conflicts and often lead a person to receive more treatment than they would have liked.

This list only scratches the surface. And we may encounter causes that we aren’t even aware of yet as we further our understanding of this deeply important issue! Whatever we learn, you can be sure that we will incorporate our findings into our education programs and communicate them to decision-makers who set health policy where you live.

In the meantime, informing yourself and others around you is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and your choices. You can start by creating an advance care plan and, most importantly, appointing a substitute decision-maker who understands your wishes and whom you trust to carry them out. To learn more, check out the advance care planning resources we’ve made available in the Education section of our website.

After all, when it comes defending your rights and choices, having the right information is the best place to start.