Frequently Asked Questions on Health Care Decisions

What is the Personal Directives Act and why is it needed?

The Personal Directives Act is a new law that does three things:

It recognizes a Personal Directive as a legal document. A Personal Directive allows you to set out how personal care decisions, including health care decisions, are to be made for you when you are not mentally capable of making those decisions. It is only in effect when you are alive and mentally incapable of speaking for yourself.

It sets up a process that allows a person to appoint a delegate to make decisions about their own health care. A delegate is a person who has the authority to make decisions for you if you are not able to make decisions about your own health care. If you make a Personal Directive, you can name another person as a delegate to make decisions for you about your personal care.

It allows a person to set out their wishes for their personal care in a legal document. First, you can write down specific instructions for people to follow when they provide you with personal care services, if you become incapable of making decisions. If these instructions are clear, and specific to the decision to be made, they must be followed. Second, you can write down other information about your values, beliefs, and wishes to guide others who will be providing you with personal care services, if you become incapable of making decisions.

How do I make a referral to the Health Care Decisions Division?

All Health Care Decisions Division referral forms and a reference guide on how to complete the different forms can be found under Forms.

What is the Public Trustee’s role under the Personal Directives Act?

In Nova Scotia, a person must give their consent before they can receive health care or home care services, or be admitted into a continuing-care home, unless it is an emergency. If the person is not legally able to give consent, the health care provider must turn to a substitute to make the decision.

  • a delegate named in a Personal Directive
  • a relative who is willing and capable of making the decision
  • another person who has the legal authority

What happens in an emergency?

The Personal Directives Act states that a person may be treated without consent under these conditions:

  • it is an emergency
  • the treatment is necessary to save the patient’s life or health
  • the time needed to find a delegate who has the authority to make a decision would put the patient at great risk and
  • there is no other information that states clearly that the person would not want the treatment

Who is responsible to find the right substitute decision-maker who has the authority to make a decision for individuals who can’t make decisions for themselves and are living in a continuing care home?

If there is no delegate appointed in a personal directive, the home would use the Act to help determine who the appropriate substitute decision maker is.

Does a Personal Directive cancel a Power of Attorney or Enduring Power of Attorney document?

No. A Personal Directive deals only with decisions about personal care. Powers of Attorney and Enduring Powers of Attorney largely deal with estates and specific financial matters. They would be complementary documents.

What hours is the office open?

Check our contact page for information on office location and hours of operation.

How can I get more information on the Personal Directives Act, its Regulations, or on creating a Personal Directive?

You can find all that information on the Personal Directives Act web page.