Personal Representation Agreements
What are They?
What happens when we can't give directions for ourselves about our medical treatment? Who will make those decisions for us?
In British Columbia , there are laws that offer some help. They have created a list of people who can make health decisions for you. The power falls to the first person on the list, and so on down the list to the next able and willing person. In this Province, the first in line is a person named in a Personal Representation Agreement and thereafter a spouse, child parent or sibling.
Too many seek to solve the problem of being unable to make health decisions by writing out a simple "Living Will", from a drugstore form or Internet source. Unfortunately, such wills relate only to end of life treatment. They do not allow the selection of your decision maker in advance. Some may feel comfortable that your family will follow your wishes and instructions in the living will. This can be a dangerous assumption. Others are wiser and can envisage a big family fight over who should make the decision. This puts the attending Doctor in a difficult and unwanted position. Should he listen to the eldest daughter or the new young second wife-for example? There is no guarantee that the instructions in a living will shall be followed. General statements in living wills can make it difficult for medical staff to follow. Words such as "not kept alive by artificial means" or" experimental treatment of low success", cause vagueness and wide interpretation for different people. No province has passed laws that clearly recognize living wills.
NOW, almost all provinces, including B.C. have passed laws that clarify the issue by the appointment of a substitute decision maker. As a result of studies conducted, many stressed the need for clear guidance for those in the medical field for treatments a patient may or may not want.
The document that allows for this function is called different names. In Alberta it is called a Personal Directive. In B.C., we have a Personal Representation Agreement. (PRA). This allows a person of 19 years or older, of sound mind, can give advance instructions on their wishes health or personal care. Such documents carry great importance and responsibility, are properly prepared by Lawyers and signed before them with an attached Certificate of Consultation.