Ian Anderson
Continuing Education Program
in End-of Life Care
University of Toronto

    A Joint Project of:
  • Continuing Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • The Joint Centre for Bioethics, University of Toronto




Each of us will reach a time in our lives when we will face difficult choices regarding which medical treatments are right for us. These decisions are complicated ones and may in fact be among the most difficult decisions we ever make. Often there is no right or wrong answer: it’s a matter of figuring out, with the help of our healthcare teams and our families/loved ones, which course of action is best for us as individuals in the context of our current or anticipated state of health, our goals in life, our values and beliefs. The more time we have to think about them, become informed and ask questions, the more comfortable we can be that the choices we make or anticipate making are ones that make sense for us.
While we might be able to decide and speak for ourselves when the time comes sometimes, due to illness, we cannot. Having a voice in our own healthcare is very important for us to be respected as individuals with unique values, goals and beliefs. In anticipation of any inability to be part of the decision-making, many people complete a power of attorney for personal care (with the help of their lawyer) or talk to family members about their thoughts and wishes for future healthcare. This process is known as advance care planning. The individual(s) chosen to speak for us become their substitute decision-makers.
Thinking about any of these decisions can be scary – it asks us to think of a time when we are sick, maybe even a time when we are dying. No one likes to do think of these things. It is important to remember that you will not be facing these decisions alone. You should expect your healthcare team to be there to help you or your substitute decision-maker every step of the way. Spending some time thinking about these issues now may make it easier to know what to do if and when the time comes.
This DVD is a tool that will help you become better informed about what advance care planning is really all about. It is not a replacement for actually talking with your family, doctor or lawyer. Its goal is to help you understand 1) what is advance care planning, 2) what some of the more common decisions, choices and treatments involve, 3) in what contexts such decisions may need to be made, 4) the likely benefits, burdens and alternatives, 5) what you can discuss with your family/substitute decision-maker, your healthcare team and lawyer to make each of their roles easier in the event they need to speak for you and finally 6) what questions you or your substitute decision-maker should ask the healthcare team when these decisions arise in your life.

Advance Care Planning is a simple yet important process that can help you ensure that your health care wishes are followed if and/or when you are unable to communicate them directly to your health care providers.

The Advance Care Planning DVD provides an introductory look at some of the basic concepts involved in advance care planning. Using a storied-approach, the DVD highlights a number of common health care scenarios and their impact on individuals, families, and health care professionals.

Scenario I: A 37 year-old-man is seriously injured in a fall from his roof and is being cared for in a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. This story explains life support and the difficult decisions that his wife and mother face with hospital staff.

Scenario II: Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, a woman asks her adult daughter to assume the role of Substitute Decision Maker to make certain her voice will be heard by her health care team. We follow this mother and daughter through the experience of learning the medical and legal issues involved when assuming this kind of role for a loved one.

Scenario III: An elderly man learns his cancer is incurable. This story explains some of the common concepts of palliative care. We are given the opportunity to experience the decision-making process in a palliative care setting.

Available in English and in French.

Supported by:
The Change Foundation,
Alzheimer Society of Ontario, The Law Society Foundation, the Ian Anderson Continuing Education Program in End-of-Life Care, University of Toronto
In partnership with the University Health Network and
Ontario's Strategy for Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias



University of Toronto Home Page

Continuing Education Faculty of Medicine Home Page


Laura Hawryluck, MSc, MD, FRCPC
Physician Leader

Nancy Bush, Coordinator

Ian Anderson Continuing Education Program
in End-of-Life Care
University of Toronto
500 University Avenue, Suite 650
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5G 1V7
Tel. 416.978.1837    Fax 416.971.2200