Common Questions

What is a "living will" and is one available in BC?

Living will is a term that originated from the United States and is not a legal document in B.C.

The term ‘living will’ has been used to describe a person’s written wishes for their health care treatments, and particularly treatments they do not want in an end-of-life situation.

There are legal personal planning options available in BC to address health care wishes for “end of life” situations, and to plan for the future.

1) Representation Agreement - a way for you to give legal authority on health care and personal care to someone you trust.

2) Advance Directive – new as of September 1, 2011, a legal document in BC which allows you to provide written instructions about what health care you do or do not want in the future, if you become incapable and a health care decision needs to be made.

  • However, an advance directive may not be a comprehensive way to address future health care decisions. A Representation Agreement Section 9 can be more comprehensive.

Good starting points include: 

  • The Nidus Guide to Personal Planning: Stay in Charge of Your Life, from Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre, provides an overview of "personal planning", which involves making arrangements in case you need help managing your affairs during your lifetime due to an illness, injury or disability. The Guide can help you figure out which legal document(s) fit your situation.
  • Adults and Consent to Medical Care, a fact sheet from the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, describes the law relating to consent to health care, including what happens when you are incapable and cannot consent to health care.
  • It's Your Choice: Personal Planning Tools, a booklet from the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC, explains the choice of legal personal planning options you can use to ensure your wishes are known and can be followed if the need arises. The choices described include an advance directive, representation agreement, enduring power of attorney, and nomination of committee.

See our related common questions:

Last reviewed January 2015

advance directive, representation agreement, enduring power of attorney, living will, health care, DNR (do not resuscitate) order, committee, nomination of committee