Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 29, 2007
Personal directive gives control over medical treatment
You have the right to determine what treatment you do not want to receive
By LASHA MORNINGSTAR
"It is so much better for her to say - 'He has a personal directive. Please follow his instructions,'"
- Remi St. Pierre
"It is so much better for her to say - 'He has a personal directive. Please follow his instructions,'" advises St. Pierre.
And not to worry. The next of kin is always notified that a personal directive has been engaged.
You have the right to deny treatment. And the agent named under instruction must follow the instructions named by the principle. They cannot go against what the client dictates in their directive.
"The legislation is blunt, " agrees St. Pierre, "but we are dealing with life and death and it is charitable as well."
St. Pierre says some say the bill takes this authority away from God, and we are acting as God - saying who is to live and who is to die.
"But my feeling is what you are basically saying is you want not only the best interests of yourself, but also the next of kin and those who can benefit from you and all the things around you.
"I believe our time on earth is very important, but it is only one part of our full existence."
What about transplants?
"To harvest organs, the person must be alive," says St. Pierre. "The agent cannot donate body parts from a living person. But if I told you, 'Please do so (donate my organs),' then you are on solid ground - you are following the person's instructions."
And as the person's agent, you do have the right to know what is in the patient's medical file.
"Privacy legislation says no one has the right to ask your doctor what is in those files," says St. Pierre. "But in this directive we are giving this authority - The Health Act Under 1014F and G of Chapter H5 - to your agent to make that request."
There is another vital piece of legality St. Pierre recommends.
Using his wife as an example, he says what would happen if he only had power of attorney to look after her affairs should she become incapacitated.
But what if she has a massive stroke and is not able to consult with him?
"That power of attorney is no good," says St. Pierre. "What you need is an enduring power of attorney. This continues even if she cannot understand what I am doing for her."
Approximate cost? Roughly $125.
Without that enduring document, St. Pierre would have to go to court with a physician's documentation saying his wife cannot make her decisions and ask for a trusteeship to take care of her affairs and guardianship to take care of her.
"So I would have to spend a couple of thousand dollars to have some stranger tell me what I could do with my wife and report back every two years to tell what I have done with her assets.
"You have the court intervening, the public trustee involved, the public guardian involved taking care of the members of your family.
"That is why you want to have an enduring power of attorney to tell you who is in charge if something happens when you can't take charge and a personal directive to give health care authority and a will if, heaven forbid, things go to the worse."
With 90 pieces of legislation in place the government puts into motion if you do not have a will, enduring power of attorney or directive will take care of you, St. Pierre suggests people invest in a lawyer's expertise.
A specialist in wills, estates, trusts, tax and related litigation, St. Pierre underlines he means " no disrespect to those who draw up their own wills or directives."
"But if I am going to have an appendix out, I would rather have a doctor do it. I might be able to do it," he says with a chuckle, "but I don't want to flub it."
Without a correctly drawn up directive and extended power of attorney, "decisions could end up going to strangers that have nothing to do with what I personally want."
The above information is a brief outline of basic legalities, and one should consult a lawyer for their own specific needs.
As an example of the humanity that can be incorporated in a personal directive, St. Pierre shares one profoundly compassionate personal directive dictated by a chief medical examiner in Edmonton.
"We have a problem with our health care system," the physician told St. Pierre. "I want a personal directive. But I have lived a comfortable life and done very well.
"What happens if I find myself dying in an ICU? Outside, a 35-year-old man with two kids needs the ICU who has a chance at success. I don't want to deprive that man of the ICU.
"So I want to go one step further. If someone else can better use the treatment, I want them to take me out of the ICU."
The physician took his directive further.
"Use my organs."
Emotion fills Sr. Pierre's face as he concludes the client's story.
"What a charitable thing to say."
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