Whether as a result of illness or accident, people sometimes need help managing their health affairs. Whatever the cause, the end result is the same - it is necessary to designate someone else, typically a family member, close friend, or colleague, to take on the decision- making responsibility. This is done through a representation agreement.
Under British Columbia’s adult guardianship laws, representation agreements allow an individual to appoint a trusted person to take on responsibility for certain decisions. A representation agreement is a way to ensure that help is available in managing one’s health and medical affairs. It is a way of ensuring that the wishes and values of the person making the representation agreement will be honoured.
Adults who need health care have a right to decide whether or not they want the care that is being planned for them. However, due to an illness or accident that can cause temporary or permanent mental incapacity, not all adults are capable of making these decisions. When dealing with an incompetent patient, medical practitioners are now required by law to consult with a legal representative to obtain a health care decision. If there is no representation agreement in place appointing a legal representative, it may be necessary to postpone decisions (except in the case of an emergency) until a family member or some other person can be appointed as a temporary decision-maker. If the patient has no next of kin, the Public Guardian and Trustee will be appointed. (In emergencies, a medical practitioner can act without consent.)
The above information is provided as a general guide. Be sure to seek the advice of a lawyer as to which route makes the most sense in the context of the revised laws and your personal situation.