Advance Care Planning FAQ


Here are some common questions about advance care planning:

My family will know what to do - why do I have to write it down?

Recording your wishes (writing it down, making a video, etc.) helps make sure your wishes are clear for everyone. You may believe that they know what to do ‒ but perhaps they don’t. You can use what you have written in this workbook as a guide for the conversations you will have with your family and Substitute Decision Maker(s). 

For example, you may have said something like ‘pull the plug if I’m a vegetable’ ‒ but you need to be clear about what that really means to you. Your family may also have questions about the choices that you’ve made and it’s important all of your friends and family understand.

In BC your advance care plan should consist of the following:

  • Conversations with family or friends and health care providers about your beliefs, values and wishes
  • A written record or video of your beliefs, values and wishes for future health care treatment
  • The names and contact information of Substitute Decision Maker(s) – the people who qualify to be on your temporary substitute decision maker list
  • Step 3 of this Workbook will explain more about this.

Optionally, in BC, your advance care plan may also include:

  • A Representation Agreement. It is a legal document in which you, as a capable adult, name your representative(s) to make health care and other decisions on your behalf when you are incapable of making decisions on your own. Choosing someone to speak for you is important if you do not have close family who know you well or if you want to appoint someone who may not be on the traditional list ( e.g. a close friend). Please see the glossary to learn more.
  • An Advance Directive. These are written instructions that speak directly to your health care provider about the health care treatment you have a durable wish to consent to, or refuse (e.g. blood products). This can only be completed by you as a capable adult. Please see the glossary to learn more.
  • Appointing someone to make decisions about your financial affairs, business and property in an Enduring Power of Attorney, which would take effect only when you become incapable.
Amendments to legislation relating to representation agreements and enduring powers of attorney came into force on Sept. 1, 2011.

What if I change my mind? What if my health changes and/or How often should I review?

As long as you are capable you will involved in making decision about your own health care. A written plan would only take effect if you were not able to communicate directly. However, life changes, and so may your wishes for health care. Make sure you review your plan regularly (at least yearly), and make sure that your Substitute Decision Maker(s) is still willing and able to make decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself. Update your written documents and provide new copies if your plans change.

Advance Care Planning is for all healthy capable adults. If you have a chronic illness such as diabetes, kidney, heart or lung disease, it is important you learn about your illness and the treatment choices you may need to make down the road.

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These types of documents are only for old and sick people, right?

You can’t predict how and when you’ll become seriously ill and unable to communicate. . If you are an adult, you should do advance care planning. You can change your plan as often as you like, and as your life changes. But don’t just write it down – the most important thing to do is to have conversations with the person or people who will make decisions for you when you can’t.

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How does a substitute decision maker use my plans to make healthcare decisions when I cannot?

It is the legal duty of your substitute decision maker (Representative or Temporary Substitute Decision Maker), to respect your instructions or wishes that you shared with them in conversation and/or that you have written or video taped. Therefore, if you understand and have made decisions to not have a particular medical treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy and you become incapable, your substitute decision makers cannot decide otherwise.

Where should I keep my advance care plan, advance directive, and/or representation agreement?

You should keep these documents in a safe and accessible place (not a safety deposit box). Some people place them on their fridge, or in a coloured folder on the fridge (e.g., in a plastic sleeve). It’s also a good idea to fill out the wallet card at the back of the My Voice advance care planning guide and place it in your wallet, so that health care providers have information about you and where your advance care plan is kept.

You are encouraged to provide copies of your advance care plan and/or advance directive to your family physician and other health care providers as well as to your Substitute Decision Maker or Representative. Your representative should also have your representation agreement with original signatures.


Do you have more questions?

Visit the BC Ministry of Health FAQs