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Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Saskatchewan Justice

What is a living will?

A living will is also called a health care directive.

The Health Care Directives and Substitute Health Care Decisions Makers Act, which came into force in 1997, allows you to write your own health care directive.

Health care directives give directions about medical treatment to treatment providers. It comes into effect when you are no longer able to make and communicate your own health care decisions.

There are two kinds of health care directives:

  • The first gives specific directions to treatment providers as to the treatments that you consent to or refuse, should you one day be unable to make a health care decision on your own.
  • The second names another person (called a "proxy") to make health care decisions for you if and when you cannot make a health care decision yourself.


Your directive can also be a combination of both these types, including specific treatment directions for certain situations, as well as a proxy named for other health care decisions.

Why prepare a health care directive?

The directive lets you make decisions about your future treatment. It makes sure that your wishes will be known and respected.

Who can make a directive?

Any person over the age of 16 who is able to make his/her own health care decisions can write a directive. A directive is especially useful to terminally ill and elderly individuals who have specific directions about treatment that they would like honoured as death approaches.

What should my directive say?

  1. You may give specific instructions about medical treatment you would or would not want when you are no longer able to make or communicate your own health care decisions. To help make your wishes as specific as possible -- especially if you have a serious illness -- you should discuss with your doctor how your illness will progress and what treatments will be offered to you.
  2. You may name a proxy to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you would not be able to make or communicate your own health care decisions, or if you have not provided a specific written directive. Your proxy does not need to be a family member.


What happens if I am not able to make a decision and do not have a health care directive or a proxy?

If you become unable to make your own health care decisions and you have not named a proxy and have not provided a specific written directive, the Act permits health care decisions to be made by:

  • your nearest adult relative; or, if no relative can be located,
  • a treatment provider.


How should I write a health care directive?

  • Your directive can be hand-written or typed.
  • You must sign and date it.
  • Be clear and as specific as possible. It is difficult for treatment providers to follow directions that are not clear. The Act does not require them to follow directions that are not specific enough.
  • If you are naming a proxy, it is a good idea to record his/her full name, address and phone number.


What should I do with my directive after I've written it?

Discuss your directions with your proxy if you have named one, your family or others close to you, and your doctor. You may want to keep a copy in your wallet and give copies to your proxy, doctor and those close to you.

Can I cancel a directive?

Yes. The best way to cancel a directive is to destroy it or write on the document that you are cancelling it. In an emergency, you can also tell another person that you no longer want to follow the directive.

You may also simply write a new directive, which will automatically replace your old one. Let those who have copies of the earlier directive know that it has been cancelled or replaced.

Can I change the directive?

Yes. Written changes must be signed and dated by you.

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