Topic Overview

Even if your family is involved in helping you make medical treatment decisions, it is still important to choose one person to be your substitute decision-maker (SDM). If you want one family member to be able to make medical treatment decisions for you, appoint that person as your SDM. Your family's right to make decisions for you may be limited unless you have legally appointed an SDM.

Most provinces and territories allow you to choose more than one person at a time to be your SDMs.

You may choose:

  • Your husband, wife, or partner.
  • A child or grandchild.
  • Another family member.
  • A close friend.
  • An attorney.

If your province or territory allows, choose one or two alternate SDMs who can fill the role if your primary SDM is not available or is not able to do so.

Choosing your SDM is an important decision. Not everyone will be comfortable taking on this responsibility, so talk openly with the person you choose before completing the process. Consider choosing someone who:

  • Is at least 18 years old.
  • Knows you well and understands what makes life meaningful for you.
  • Understands your religious and moral values.
  • Will honour your wishes and do what you want, not what he or she wants.
  • Will be able to make difficult choices at a stressful time.
  • Will be able to refuse or stop treatment, if that is what you would want, even if it may result in your death.
  • Will be assertive with health professionals if needed.
  • Will be able to ask questions of doctors and others to get the information needed to make decisions.
  • Lives near you or is willing and able to travel if needed to make decisions for you.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Shelly R. Garone, MD, FACP - Palliative Medicine
Robin L. Fainsinger, MBChB, LMCC, CCFP - Palliative Medicine

Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015