Decision making

Legal documents related to decision-making

Patients may have completed one or more decision-making documents. These documents, which are legally binding, are guided by personal values and preferences, and provide guidance to health care providers on how an individual wants their care to be managed.

Names for these documents vary among jurisdictions and may include

  • "Do Not Resuscitate" or "Do Not Attempt Resuscitation" orders.
  • An advance care plan.
  • An advance directive.
  • A health directive.
  • A goals of care document.
  • Patients or families may refer to a document as a “living will.”

These documents are important tools for conversations with the patient and family in determining the care plan. They are particularly helpful if the patient is not well enough or doesn’t wish to participate in discussion and decision-making. A substitute decision-maker may have been identified in the patient’s documentation. This person's role is to make decisions based on the patient’s expressed wishes.  

Be sure that you are familiar with the decision-making documents accepted in your jurisdiction by checking provincial laws, policies, and guidelines.

Note that Powers of Attorney apply to financial matters only and have no bearing on health care decisions.

See also:Advance care planning across Canada  article with links to provincial and territorial informationHealth directives articleSpeak Up: Advance Care Planning