Specific decision-making | How it works
If an adult has lost the capacity to make decisions, a health care provider can choose one of the adult’s relatives to make a one-time, time-sensitive decision.
What’s important to know
Specific decision-making is only for a one-time, time-sensitive decision about:
The health care professional chooses a relative from a ranked list.
If an adult doesn’t have the ability to make decisions, legally they can’t consent to medical treatment. They also can’t give permission to be moved to or discharged from a residential facility.
If the decision is time-sensitive, the health care provider can choose one of the adult’s relatives to make a one-time decision.
The health care provider must be a doctor, nurse practitioner, or dentist (for decisions about dental care).
The decision can only be about:
- health care and/or
- temporary admission to or discharge from a residential facility.
Temporary admission or discharge from a residential facility means the decision is about where the adult will live for up to the next 6 months. If the adult regains their ability to make decisions during that time, they should write a personal directive. If not, they probably need a guardian or co-decision-maker.
Sometimes specific decision-making is appropriate, even if the adult has a guardian or a personal directive. The guardian/agent may not have authority to make decisions about health care or where the adult lives.
Relatives can’t use specific decision-making for treatment of mental health disorders, psychosurgery, sterilization, tissue transplant, experimental activities or end-of-life decisions.
Why do this?
Specific decision-making lets a family member make a time-sensitive decision so the adult can move forward with their care. Without it, the adult could be waiting several months before a guardian or co-decision-maker is appointed.
What’s an example?
If you had a stroke, you might need to move from the hospital to a facility that offers rehabilitation. If you lost the ability to make decisions, you could not give permission to be moved. With specific decision-making, a doctor can ask one of your relatives for consent.
How long does it take?
Once the paperwork is completed by the health care provider and the relative signs it, it takes effect immediately.
Is there a cost?
There is no cost.
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