End of Life Decisions and Living Wills

Often people avoid talking to loved ones about their end of life decisions because they think of these discussions as depressing or uncomfortable, but having this discussion and making your wishes clear will ultimately make things easier for your loved ones if they ever have to step in and make decisions for you.

In Saskatchewan, you may make a Health Care Directive in which you choose who will make medical decisions for you when you are unable to do so.  This document authorizes the chosen person or persons to obtain all your medical details so they may make an informed decision.  If you do not have a Health Care Directive, your closest living relative is the person who will make medical decisions for you.

You may include in your Health Care Directive a statement regarding your end of life decisions (also known as a Living Will).  For example, you may state that you do or do not wish to be kept alive artificially in the event of extreme disability or you may state that you do want to receive pain medication for terminal suffering even if the pain medication hastens your death.

A Health Care Directive is a useful document because it is clear evidence of your wishes and may be given to medical professionals.  Having a written statement of your end of life decisions helps your loved ones to communicate your wishes to medical professionals.  It also helps your medical professionals to advise your loved ones of treatment options which are in keeping with your wishes.

If you choose not to have a Health Care Directive, it is a good idea to sit down with loved ones and make sure they know what your end of life decisions are.  One thing to think about is what you consider to be an acceptable quality of life.  For example, Jane may be happy with her quality of life so long as she is able to watch her favourite cooking show and visit with family, but John needs to have a high level of independence and the ability to take part in his favourite activities.

By clearly communicating your end of life decisions to loved ones, you may spare them unnecessary stress and uncertainty in an already difficult situation.  If you are unwilling to have this discussion with loved ones, a Health Care Directive may be the best option for you to ensure your wishes are known.