What is a proposed representative?

The term "proposed representative" is not in most people's vocabulary, and doesn't need to be. But if you are a family caregiver and the term arises, chances are there is a conflict about who makes health care decisions for a loved one.

The phrase arises from Ontario's Health Care Consent Act. Under this law, a proposed representative can outrank an existing substitute decision-maker.

You may be sitting on the sidelines while someone else makes bad decisions, and you want to intervene. For example, you may disagree with how your step-father is making decisions for your mother or how your brother's wife is making decisions for your brother. You may want to apply to become your relative's substitute decision-maker. This would allow you to make decisions about treatment, admission to a care facility and/or personal assistance services. (Note: Authority over financial decisions comes through a different legal avenue).

Becoming a proposed representative is no small feat. It involves bringing an application to a tribunal called the Consent and Capacity Board and having a hearing. You will introduce evidence and will likely be cross-examined. Your lawyer will make legal arguments about why you should be the person's substitute decision-maker. If your loved one is currently in a hospital or long-term care facility, that is where the hearing will likely take place.

You may also come across the phrase "proposed representative" if you have been notified about someone else's attempt to become the proposed representative. In such cases, if you wish to contribute to the hearing (whether or not you want this role for yourself), legal counsel is recommended.

We often advise family caregivers (and sometimes friends) of patients who are not seeking decision-making powers over their loved one, but simply want to ensure the person who is making decisions has the appropriate skills and right intentions.

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