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Do fiduciaries in Ontario have a say in end of life matters?

Making the decision to take a loved off life support is perhaps one of the most emotionally fraught decisions family members will ever have to make. Ontario residents on life support, without powers of attorney, living wills or fiduciaries could end up having the government make end-of-life decisions for them. Those decisions could come from the Consent and Capacity Board, which is an independent medical review panel mandated under Ontario's Health Care Consent Act. 

Ultimately, it is this board that decides whether appointed decision makers like fiduciaries or powers of attorney are acting appropriately when making life-ending decisions. One thing that is taken into consideration is whether taking extraordinary measures constitutes treatment or simply extending the life of someone who will likely never regain consciousness. Another is cost. It is estimated that one year in the ICU costs about $1 million per patent.

These arguments can usually be thwarted by testators including end-of-life wishes in their estate planning. Courts will almost always honour the wishes stipulated in a living will and other estate planning documents. It is important to let attorneys, trustees or fiduciaries know what those wishes are, not only by word of mouth but through a formal document. 

There are many things to think about when in the throes of estate planning. An Ontario lawyer experienced in wills and estate law will be able to explain to his or her client what exactly people like fiduciaries do and why they're so important. A lawyer will also ensure his or her client's estate planning documents include such things as end-of-life wishes.

Source: findlaw.ca, "Who has the final say in end-of-life matters?", Accessed on Oct. 13, 2017

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