I recently read an article in the Toronto Star raising the issue of end of life decisions, and how best to prepare for those times, particularly, how to ensure that when making end of life decisions, the wishes of the person who is ill are given effect. The article stems from the author’s personal circumstances wherein his father was sadly suffering from Alzheimer’s and unable to convey his wishes.  The author makes mention of the current case before the Supreme Court of Canada that considers end of life decisions, and who ultimately has that choice, which Susana Popovic-Montag blogged about recently

It is proposed in the article that more responsibility should lay with care givers to address the end of life desires of patients and that the legal profession should take more active steps to explain the concept of a power of attorney. The author of this article also hits on the point that even the most direct and clear medical diagnosis may not resonate with those emotionally involved in making end of life decisions.  

For those who do not deal with death and related issues on a daily basis, the idea of contemplating end of life decisions is uncomfortable (to say the least). It makes sense, thinking of your own demise isn’t pleasant; even more unpleasant is thinking of all the painful ways death can occur and then trying to guard against that. Even if in theory you know what you want, or what you think you want, it can be difficult to reduce those wishes to paper. More likely, you don’t think it will be necessary, and hope that you are never in a position where you are suffering and can’t make decisions on your own. 

I agree with the author of this article, in that anytime a family is faced with making end of life decisions on behalf of a loved one, it is emotional and difficult. I also agree that taking steps to put your wishes on paper, or appointing someone to deal with those decisions when you can’t is important. Sadly, you can’t force people to deal with the uncomfortable and make choices they aren’t prepared to make, regardless of how reasonable you make it seem. Further, as we have learned from the current case before the Supreme Court of Canada, even where wishes of the family are clearly expressed, appropriate end of life decisions are not always clear.  Only time will tell whether clarity will be had across the country after the Supreme Court renders its decision.

Ultimately, end of life decisions are personal and always difficult. Powers of Attorney can be very helpful in guiding your family in the direction you wanted, if and when necessary, but the ultimate decision doesn’t get any easier to make. Perhaps the only thing that can give comfort to those who have to make the decision is having talked about it before hand and knowing your wishes.  

Something to think about,

Nadia M. Harasymowycz