the real/estate blog

Have a coffee with your discussion of dying

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Funeral planning by Cesia Green on July 9, 2013
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Have you ever heard of aCoffee shop death café?

Neither had I, until I read this article at the Globe and Mail last week. Basically, they are informal gatherings – sometimes at coffee shops, sometimes in people’s homes – where a small group can get together, enjoy tea and sweets, and discuss anything and everything related to death and dying. From having a green funeral, to fears about dying alone, to questions about organ donation. Nothing is off the table, and participants are able to have their questions answered in a non-judgemental and relaxed environment.

If you heard about a Death Café in your city, would you attend?


Things no one tells you about death

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on May 14, 2013

Death of winterI came across this post the other day (warning: some NSFW text) and immediately connected with so much of it. While I might not have used the exact same language, he makes a lot of really good points. There is so much that we are not prepared for when someone dies; this runs the gamut from the bureaucratic nightmare that is dealing with institutions on the death of a loved one, to not actually feeling sad, in the case of a person you knew but not well, when you feel that you should be experiencing some negative emotion but don’t.

If you don’t mind a bit of swearing and want an entertaining read on a difficult subject, check it out.

Reviving the debate on physician-assisted suicide

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Powers of Attorney by Cesia Green on December 11, 2012

Last week, I blogged about the Globe’s death series and the importance of living wills. This week I wanted to draw from that series again, but this time on a very different topic: euthanasia.

This past summer, the British Columbia Superior Court released its decision on Carter v. Attorney-General of Canada, and ruled that the provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code that prevented physician-assisted suicide were invalid. On July 13, the federal government announced that it would appeal the ruling; this case is likely to go all the way to the Supreme Court before it is finally decided.

In the Globe’s article, they profiled a family that allowed its story to be used in support of the court case. The story is powerful, about children who deeply loved their parents yet helped them both to die. Whichever side of the debate you fall on, I think you will be moved by it.

Controlling your care

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Living Wills,Powers of Attorney by Cesia Green on December 4, 2012

Late last year, the Globe and Mail ran a whole series of articles on death. They discussed many topics related to death and dying, generally and specifically within Canada. In this particular article, the question is on end-of-life care: what happens when someone is dying, and their final wishes are unknown?

I have written before on the importance of having a Power of Attorney for Personal Care in place, with a living will directive contained inside it. Making the decision and writing it down means that what you want to have happen will, and also means that no one else has to bear the burden of making it.

Choose your own Attorney

Posted in Elder abuse,End of Life Care,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on September 18, 2012
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Here’s another reason (if you need one) to be very, very careful about who you choose as your attorney (for care in this case, but property is relevant too): a woman in Missouri is accused of murdering her father by using a Power of Attorney to withhold treatment and cause his death.

Choosing the proper attorney is very important. This is obviously an extreme case, and there are questions about the validity of the Power of Attorney document, but it highlights the fact that, if you don’t prepare a document yourself, someone could arrange for treatment that you really don’t want.

You can read more about the case here.

An update on the Rasouli case

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Powers of Attorney by Cesia Green on May 1, 2012
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Last summer, I blogged about Hassan Rasouli, who had been in a near-vegetative state since contracting an infection after surgery in October 2010. His doctors had intended to remove life support against the wishes of his wife, who was named as his attorney in Mr. Rasouli’s Power of Attorney for Personal Care. At the time, the Ontario Court of Appeal had ruled that he could not be taken off life support without the consent of his attorney. That decision has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, and in that case, a doctor has now stated that Mr. Rasouli is minimally conscious and may be paralyzed but aware.

Mr. Rasouli has apparently improved to the point of being in at least a minimally conscious state, and can apparently show a thumbs up when spoken to in Farsi. His family has stated, and this doctor appears to confirm, that this this means that he should be kept on life support until he is able to confirm for himself whether he wants such measures ended.

The debate about end of life care, including about euthanasia, is currently raging on in Canada. This case will surely be an important part of where this area of the law ends up.

Protect your care

I recently returned from a much-needed vacation down south (which is also the reason this blog has been silent for a little while). On the plane ride home, I flipped through my movie options and came across The Descendants, which I was a little familiar with because of the recent Oscars. I was quite pleasantly surprised to discover that Hollywood had made a movie about what I practice, as large parts of the plot line concerned the Rule Against Perpetuities and advance directives. I’ll talk more about perpetuities later this week, but for today I thought I would discuss advance directives.

Many people will remember Terri Schiavo, who was the subject of a major legal battle in the United States a few years back. She collapsed in her home, suffered extreme brain damage, and was in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years until her death in 2005. For the last seven years of her life, her husband and parents fought a protracted legal battle over whether her feeding tube should be removed and she should be allowed to die, with her husband eventually being found to have the authority to end her life supportive treatments.

In The Descendants, Elizabeth King suffers a similarly traumatic injury, but she has signed an advance directive detailing her wishes in the event that she cannot survive without life support. This takes the decision away from her husband, who must simply allow her wishes to be carried out, and does not need to decide what she might have wanted.

In Ontario, the document used to direct your care is called a Power of Attorney for Personal Care. In creating such a document, you are given the ability to choose who is to make decisions and what decisions they are to make. In my opinion, this is one of the most important documents you can have in place. It allows you to be the person who decides what happens with your care and, perhaps even more importantly, who makes those decisions, so that what is done is what you would have done if you could have made the decision yourself. If you are over 16, you owe it to yourself to have a Power of Attorney in place.

Facebook after death

Posted in End of Life Care by Cesia Green on February 7, 2012

Mashable posted this article last month about a new Facebook app called If I Die. Basically, it allows you to prepare messages and Facebook posts that will appear on your profile after three “trustees” – trusted Facebook friends – have independently confirmed your death. There is currently no limit on how many posts you can prepare, and they could continue to appear for a considerable length of time after your death.

As I blogged about back in December 2010, there are a number of services available to people who want to ensure that something is preserved online for their friends and loved ones. If I Die seems to be the latest offering in this vein, for those who want to keep their digital afterlives within Facebook.

How far would you go for a DNR?

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning,Living Wills,Substitute Decisions by Cesia Green on September 13, 2011

I came across this article the other day, about a woman in Norfolk, England who had “Do Not Resuscitate” tattooed on her chest so that doctors would make no mistake about her intentions should she be found unconscious. And, just in case she is found face down, she tattooed “PTO” (please turn over) and an arrow on her back. She has said that, after her husband died, she became concerned that she might be left alive, on life support, and in pain, and wanted to ensure that this does not happen.

However, as the article notes, a tattoo is not enough to prove wishes to a doctor in case of an emergency. In Joy Tomkins’s case, she would need to either have a power of attorney in place, or have a DNR that is put in writing and properly witnessed. The rules are similar in Ontario. The best plan is to have a proper Power of Attorney for Personal Care in place to ensure that your wishes are spelled out, as well as being clear about the person you want making those wishes.

Reviving the euthanasia debate

Posted in End of Life Care,Estate Planning by Cesia Green on August 2, 2011

The Globe and Mail published an article yesterday about a group from Vancouver called the Farewell Foundation For The Right To Die. They are pushing both British Columbia and the federal government to change the laws surrounding euthanasia and assisted suicide, specifically to legalize the type of physician-assisted suicide that is available in such places as Dignitas in Switzerland and Oregon.

Euthanasia has been a simmering issue in Canada, not having flared up since Sue Rodriguez lost her Supreme Court battle to end her life in 1993; she had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. According to Russel Ogden of the Farewell Foundation, more than 70% of Canadians support a person’s right to physician-assisted suicide. If the Farewell Foundation has any say, it looks like this is going to become a very hot issue in the near future.