Why can’t my spouse just make decisions for me?
Legally speaking, no one person has the automatic right to make decisions for you, not even your spouse. When providing you with health care treatment, doctors and other health care providers must follow a hierarchy of authorities. This means that they’re required by law to turn to certain people to get consent to health care treatment. If you don’t put the proper legal documentation in place, there’s no guarantee that your spouse will be the one who is chosen to speak for you when needed.
What are the advantages of choosing a representative under a representation agreement, over defaulting to a temporary substitute decision-maker?
There are many advantages to choosing a representative rather than falling back on the default scheme under the law. The visual below sets out some of these advantages.
A temporary substitute decision-maker doesn’t have the authority to make personal care decisions. These include decisions about where you live, what and how you eat (such as whether you’d want to be spoon fed), who you spend time with, as well as personal safety. These kinds of decisions become particularly important if you develop a chronic illness or condition.
What if someone disagrees with the decision made by a temporary substitute decision-maker?
If a friend, family member, or doctor is concerned about any major health care decision made by a temporary substitute decision-maker, they can ask the health authority to review the decision. Each health authority in the province is required to have a dispute resolution process.
Under the law in BC, certain people can apply to court to challenge a decision by a temporary substitute decision-maker to give or refuse consent to health care. Those who can apply to court include a health care provider or the adult themselves (that is, the person who needed the medical treatment).
Under this same law, the court can be asked to say who the temporary substitute decision-maker should be.