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Taking Back Personal Care Decision-Making Power

Question

If I become seriously ill and incapable of making medical treatment and other personal care decisions for myself, I understand that the person that I have named as my attorney for personal care has authority to make such decisions for me (subject to any conditions in the document which appointed the person).  If I later recover enough to make those decisions on my own, how do I take back decision-making power?  In other words, how do I “turn off'” or stop my attorney for personal care from making decisions that I am now able to make myself.  I live in Ontario, Canada.

Answer

In terms of medical treatment decisions, it is generally your doctor who will determine whether you are able to make decisions or whether he or she will continue to take instructions from your attorney for personal care (also referred to as your SDM or substitute decision maker).  Whether or not you are capable of such decisions depends upon the doctor’s opinion as to whether you are, in that moment, capable of making a particular medical treatment decision.

Unless it says otherwise, a Power of Attorney for Personal Care document grants authority to your attorney for personal care to make decisions relating to your nutrition, shelter (where you live), clothing, hygiene or safety as well as medical treatment decisions.  However, a medical treatment decision is likely the most common type of decision that is made by an attorney for personal care.

To change who you have named as an attorney for personal care, you can sign a new power of attorney which will revoke the previous one as long as you are mentally capable of doing so.  However, it is not necessary to revoke a power of attorney for personal care in order to take control of your own personal care decisions.  You simply have to convince the doctor (or other person in authority) that you are able to make those decisions by demonstrating that you understand and appreciate the decision that must be made.  The power of attorney for personal care document stays in place throughout; it is just not ‘effective’ while you are capable of making decisions.  It might help to think of the power of attorney for personal care as being dormant until needed again.

Reproduction of this blog is permitted if the author is credited.  If you have questions or if you would like more information, please call us at 613 836-9915. This blog is not intended to be legal advice but contains general information.  Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information in this blog might apply to you.

Blog posts pre-dated December 1, 2015 were originally published under Neff Law Office Professional Corporation.

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