At Yeti Law, we always encourage parents to nominate others to make healthcare decisions for their younger children in the absence of the parents. In Canada, children are not the property of their parents. Accordingly, the rights of children to make healthcare decisions and to participate in them are recognized. However, if a child is not old enough to make a decision or for some other reason, such as a child suffering a serious injury and the parents are not available, we recommend having an emergency plan in place. Part of the plan involves signing a Medical Power of Attorney for Children.
Medical Power of Attorney for Children
Much like any other Power of Attorney document, a medical power of attorney for children grants an individual of your choosing the right to act on your behalf. The difference in this case is that you are assigning to this individual the right to act on your behalf only as far as it concerns the health and welfare of your children. The document itself can extend from relatively minor decisions on your child’s behalf, such as the authority to enroll your children in extra-curricular activities, or access to school records, to broader decisions such as housing, to important medical decisions such as approval of medical treatments, or mental health treatments.
Power of Attorney does not equal long term or permanent guardianship. This document does not replace provisions made for your children in your last Will and testament, and if you plan to be away or unavailable for a long period, your Will is not sufficient legal documentation to grant power of attorney on a child’s behalf. It’s well worth your time to meet with your Legal Sherpa® and have a document written for the protection of your children if you are unavoidably away from them long term.
Choosing a Suitable Medical Power of Attorney Nominee
As with any Power of Attorney document, you need to be confident that the person you are nominating is willing and also able to make decisions on your behalf. In this case, special consideration must be made because of the significant demands of anyone who is chosen to care for children. You also need to ensure that the persons named in your Medical Power of Attorney document can be counted on to make decisions that fall within your value system. Communication is therefore extremely important, as you may assume that a close friend will share your values, and will make decisions similar to those which you yourself might make on behalf of your children, but this isn’t always the case. You should understand and be comfortable with their values and decision-making if you are to make the most well-informed choice of whom to appoint in the document.
A good discussion of the subject can be found in this Canadian Paediatric Society article:
Treatment decisions regarding infants, children and adolescents – https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/medical-decision-making-in-paediatrics-infancy-to-adolescence