Q. Is an advance directive like a Power of Attorney?
A. In one way, an advance directive resembles a health care power of attorney because both documents let you designate a person (usually a loved one or close friend) as your agent or proxy to make medical decisions for you if you're unable to make those decisions for yourself. But that's the only similarity between these documents.
A health care power of attorney is a broad document that gives your attorney the authority to make all kinds of health care decisions for you. But an advance directive (also called a living will) only deals with end-of-life issues, in particular the types of life-prolonging treatments or medications you wish to have administered or withheld.
Ontario laws do not refer to advance directives or living wills. Instructions must be given in a power of attorney for personal care.
Q. Does my doctor have to abide by the instructions I give in the advance directive?
A. In general, in Canada patients have the right to refuse consent for any procedure for any reason, and health care providers are required to abide by their wishes. However, they are not required to follow instructions that are against the law, such as doctor-assisted suicide. Canadian courts have ruled that advance directives must be respected. If you have questions about whether your end-of-life instructions would be legally binding, consult a lawyer in your area.