Advance Care Planning

Ensure your wishes for future health care treatment are known, even at a time when you may not be able to speak or communicate for yourself.

When you talk about or write down your wishes and instructions for future health care, you are making an advance care plan. It is a summary of your beliefs, values and wishes that must be respected when future decisions are made for you.

Why should you plan now?

You never know what’s around the corner. You can be healthy one day, and the next an accident or illness can happen. If you are not able to tell others about the health care treatments you would give consent to or refuse, someone else will be asked to decide for you.

By planning ahead you:

  • Make your beliefs, values and wishes for your future health care known
  • Provide your health care team with information to guide them in your care
  • Ease the burden on your loved ones at a difficult time

What are my advance care planning options in British Columbia?

Your first option is to think about your beliefs, values and wishes for future care, and to talk about these with the person who would be your decision maker. You may want to legally appoint this person in advance using a representation agreement. If you have not created a representation agreement and cannot speak for yourself, the health care team is required to appoint the person most closely related to you to be your “‘temporary substitute decision maker”’.

Another type of advance care plan in BC British Columbia is an advance directive. This allows you to provide instructions directly to your health care team. These must be followed if they apply to the health care decisions being made for you and you cannot speak for yourself. Some people may wish to make a Representation Agreement and an Advance Directive in combination. See the advance care planning guide , My Voice: Expressing My Wishes for Future Health Care Treatment , to help you decide whether a representation agreement, an advance directive or both of these together are the right tools for you.

How do I make an advance care plan?

The most important thing about advance care planning is thinking about your beliefs, values and wishes for future health care, discussing them and then making your wishes known to those closest to you as well as to your doctor or health care providers. These can be important and meaningful conversations, and may be a gift to your family at a time when difficult decisions may need to be made. While you are making your advance care plan, you may also wish to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf in an enduring power of attorney. Enduring power of attorney documents take effect only when you become incapable. Visit the BC Ministry of Justice Incapacity Planning webpage for more information and forms.

Where can I find more information?

Information sessions for patients, families and the public are held on the third Wednesday of each month at St. Paul’s Hospital. Please see our events calendar for more information. For more information on advance care planning in BC, please visit the following websites:

Seniors BC – for information, brochures and videos introducing the types of advance care plans in BC.
Fraser Health website – for videos introducing advance care planning in English, Chinese and Punjabi.
Public Guardian and Trustee of BC – for more about health care decision making in British Columbia.
Catholic Health Association of BC – for a faith-based perspective on advance care planning.
Speak Up – the advance care planning website for Canada

Contact Information

Wallace A. Robinson
project leader, Advance Care Planning
wrobinson@providencehealth.bc.ca