Anyone familiar with end-of-life planning likely understands the need for a last will and testament, a common legal documenting for describing how we’d like our possessions to be distributed in the event of our death. Some of us—particularly those facing a terminal diagnosis—also understand the need for advance directives to document our healthcare wishes in specific situations should we become incapacitated.
Advance care planning resources
However, few of us may be aware of the supports already in place in many jurisdictions (including British Columbia) for determining and documenting our future healthcare wishes, values, and beliefs. “Advance Care Planning” describes this very process of putting into writing instructions for future health care. The result of this process, an Advance Care Plan, is, according to HealthLink BC, “is a written summary of a capable adult’s wishes or instructions to guide a substitute decision maker if that person is asked by a physician or other health care provider to make a health care treatment decision on behalf of the adult.”
While an advance directive may take on a sense of urgency—particularly when drafted in the context of a terminal diagnosis—an Advance Care Plan has value at any stage of adult life. After all, it’s a common and sad fact that, when affected by a serious illness or injury, many people lose their ability to speak. For this reason, the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association developed Speak Up, an interactive online workbook to guide individuals and families through Advance Care Planning.
Advance care planning for historically marginalized or oppressed groups
Advance Care Planning may also ensure better treatment and support for members of historically marginalized or oppressed groups. In a different but equally urgent sense, such individuals may lack a voice, for example because kinship structures common to BIPOC and LGBTQ2IA+ communities often differ from the kinship structures recognized in conventional healthcare settings. In such situations, an Advance Care Plan may ensure recognition of a substitute decision maker, such as a chosen family member or non-marital romantic partner.