A Committee’s Duty to Foster the Independence of the Patient


A committee is a person or entity appointed by the Court to make decisions on behalf of an adult that is not capable of making his or her own decisions about health care and personal affairs and/or financial and legal affairs (the incapable adult is called the “patient”).  On December 1, 2014, section 18(2) of the Patients Property Act will become law and impose additional statutory duties on committees.  That section will read as follows:

18 (2)  A committee must, to the extent reasonable, foster the independence of the patient and encourage the patient’s involvement in any decision making that affects the patient.

This means that committees have a legal duty to promote the patient’s independence and consult the patient about decisions, to the extent that promoting and consulting is possible.  Of course, the performance of the duty will depend on the level of mental capability of the patient in the particular case.  The new statutory duty is in addition to this existing duty set out in the Patients Property Act:

18 (1)  A committee must exercise the committee’s powers for the benefit of the patient and the patient’s family, having regard to the nature and value of the property of the patient and the circumstances and needs of the patient and the patient’s family.

It is not difficult to imagine situations where a decision made “for the benefit of the patient” does not “foster the independence of the patient”.  While these duties should be seen as complimentary rather than conflicting, committees must carefully consider each duty before making decisions on behalf of the patient.

Thanks for reading!