Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Act to ensure rights of the incapacitated

An article published in today's edition of The Chronicle Herald:

By Davene Jeffrey

Nova Scotians will soon be able to retain more autonomy should they become incapacitated.

The province’s new Personal Directives Act becomes law on Thursday, replacing the Medical Consent Act, which gives people the right to name a proxy to make health-care decisions on their behalf.

Health Minister Maureen MacDonald said the new legislation goes beyond instructions for health care.

She said people will be able to assign someone to make sure their wishes for personal needs such as recreation and hygiene are followed.

"It means that people, and particularly, I imagine, people who are older or persons with disabilities, with perhaps some kind of a condition that has a degenerative element, would have the security of knowing that how they wish to be treated will be respected."

As of Thursday, forms will be available through the Justice Department website or through Service Nova Scotia offices, said Health Department spokesman Ryan Van Horne.

There will be two forms, one to appoint a delegate and the other to outline details of expected care and treatment. A booklet explaining the act also will be available.

"The Personal Directives Act covers a wide range of things, including personal-care decisions," Van Horne said.

"For example, if you are admitted to a nursing home and you are a vegetarian, you could ensure that you get a vegetarian diet or that you got fresh air for an hour a day."

The directives will have to be reasonable and legal, Van Horne said.

For instance, anyone living in a nursing home could not expect to receive treatment that the home could not offer to other residents, he said.

"If you want to ask for something that they do provide to everybody else, then you’ll get it," Van Horne said. "If you want something that they don’t provide to everybody else, then you need to make some other type of arrangement."

The act was passed in May 2008 after it was introduced by Cecil Clarke, who was then the justice minister in the Conservative government. MacDonald couldn’t say why it has taken almost two years for the act to take effect, but she said regulations had to be written and staff in health-care settings and elsewhere had to be trained in the new rules.

Van Horne said officials had hoped to bring the act into force last fall but it got sidelined by the H1N1 crisis.

With David Jackson, provincial reporter.

Also see:

Powers of Attorney and Health Care Directives (Nova Scotia)

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