Advance care planning allows every capable adult to express our desires for the health care interventions we want – and don’t want – in the event we are ever unable to speak for ourselves.

Is advance care planning really useless?

With Canada’s legalization of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) in June, 2016, Canadians now have another option when death is reasonably foreseeable. There is, however, often a misunderstanding that a request for MAiD can be part of an advance care plan or advance directive.

To access MAiD the law requires you must be mentally capable to personally consent, both at the time of your request for assessment and at the time the procedure is to be performed a minimum of 10 days later.

What can this mean? For example, a person who has a capacity-eroding illness like dementia, who is not fully conscious or who has had a serious stroke is ineligible for MAiD. The law does not allow for others to make this final decision for us regardless of what we may have previously expressed in an advance care plan or advance directive.

Simply stated, advance care plans and advance directives are documents to allow others to act on our behalf only when we are mentally incapable of consenting ourselves. And, the current law requires anyone wishing to have MAiD be capable of consenting for themselves.

Regardless of our beliefs around MAiD, Advance Care Planning allows every capable adult to express our desires for the health care interventions we want – and don’t want – in the event we are ever unable to speak for ourselves. Each of us is able to ensure our wishes are known by having these conversations with our loved ones and physician. Recording our preferences in an advance care plan or advance directive and appointing a substitute decision-maker helps to ensure our wishes are honoured. Advance care plans are a gift to those we love who may be asked to make these difficult decisions on our behalf.

If you are interested in learning more about Advance Care Planning – how to make your voice heard in the event you are ever unable to speak for yourself – the Comox Valley Hospice Society is offering an introductory workshop on either Monday, May 15, 1–3 p.m. at the Comox Fire Hall, 1870 Noel Ave. in Comox or Thursday, June 8, 1–3 p.m. at the Comox Royal Canadian Legion Branch 160, 1825 Comox Ave. in Comox.