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Making a Directive

A health care directive is made in advance to plan for a time when you may not be able to make or communicate your health care choices.

When to Make a Directive

A health care directive must be prepared in advance, while you are still competent to make health care decisions and able to communicate those decisions. You can make a health care directive if you are…

  • at least 16 years of age
  • able to understand information about potential treatments and their consequences
  • able to communicate your decisions

A health care directive will only take effect if you cannot consent to or refuse treatment directly. When your doctor or other health care provider follows your directive, they are protected from legal action.

You may want to make a directive in a situation where you know you are ill. For example, if you are facing a terminal illness, or if you have an illness where you may have periods when you are incapable of making or communicating health care decisions.

You may also choose to make a directive when you are in good health, planning ahead in the event that something happens to you and you are no longer be able to make or communicate decisions.

Before making a directive, you may want to discuss treatment options and other issues with your doctor or other health care providers. You will also want to have discussions with family members and your proxy, if you name one.

If you have granted someone a power of attorney over your personal affairs it is important to note that such a personal POA cannot be used to make health care decisions. Only a health care directive can deal with these matters.

Some Formalities

The law requires that a health care directive be in writing - either handwritten or typed - and include your signature and the date. If you sign the directive yourself, it does not need to be witnessed.

If you are unable to sign the directive yourself, someone else, other than your proxy or your proxy's spouse, may sign for you at your direction and in your presence. This signature must then be witnessed by another person.

A living will or directive will be effective if it was made in a form acceptable under Saskatchewan law, even if it was made before the law was passed. However, it must meet the requirements set out in the Act. Our laws regarding health care directives apply only in Saskatchewan. If you live in another province, check the applicable laws in that province.

A directive made in another place will be effective in Saskatchewan if it is made in an acceptable form and meets all the requirements set out in our legislation.

A lawyer can prepare a health care directive for you for a fee. You may also choose to make a health care directive without the assistance of a lawyer. There is no particular form that must be used. Although health care directives are designed to be tailored to your individual wishes, some agencies offer sample directives that can be used as a guide.

What to Include in a Directive

Your directive can give specific directions regarding certain treatments and situations. For example, it may specify that you do not want to be kept alive by a ventilator or feeding tube if you are in a persistent vegetative state. Or it could specify that you do not wish to be resuscitated or that you want comfort measures only. You should be as clear and specific as possible. Health care providers do not have to follow directions that are not clear.

If the directive does not cover a situation that arises and no proxy is named it will be used as a guide by medical professionals when deciding on treatment.


You may not want to make a plan for every possible situation. In this case you can name someone to act for you when you cannot speak for yourself. This person is called a proxy and can make health care decisions for you as required.

You can choose to have your proxy make all or some health care decisions for you. Your proxy will make decisions for you when you are not able to make or communicate those decisions yourself and your directive does not address the situation.

If you name your spouse as proxy and later divorce, the appointment will be revoked unless you state in your directive that the appointment will continue if you divorce.

Your proxy does not need to be a family member. You can choose any person who is at least 18 years old and has the capacity to make health care decisions. A married person who is not yet 18 may be a proxy for their spouse.

You may name two or more proxies if you wish. They may be named as alternate or joint proxies.

You should choose someone you trust as your proxy. Treatment wishes should be discussed clearly and completely with your proxy. If your proxy knows your wishes, they must act according to your wishes. If your proxy does not know your wishes, your proxy must act according to what they believe is in your best interests.

Your proxy cannot pass this responsibility on to another person. If, however, they are unable or unwilling to act and your health care directive does not deal with the matter, your next-of-kin may speak on your behalf.

Personal Guardians

If you have made a directive and the court later appoints a personal guardian, your directive will be followed to determine health care issues. If your directive does not give instructions for a particular situation, and a proxy was named in your directive, your proxy's decision will be preferred. If there is a disagreement, either the proxy or the personal guardian may apply to the Court of King's Bench for direction.

Looking for sample forms?

The Funeral Advisory and Memorial Society of Saskatchewan provides links to a few sample directives for your consideration.

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