03/05/2015 01:07 EST | Updated 05/04/2015 05:59 EDT

Margot Bentley case highlights irrelevance of living wills in B.C.

The case of Margot Bentley is highlighting the uncertainty of living wills under legal scrutiny but there are other options for those who who want their end-of-life plans to be honoured.

"People see the Bentley thing and they get discouraged by it," said Ron Usher, volunteer president of the non-profit Nidus Personal Planning Resource Centre and Registry and general counsel at the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia. 

"The reality is we do have a good law in British Columbia that lets people make effective personal planning agreements and for health and personal care, and the document is the Representation Agreement."

Bentley has late-stage Alzheimer's disease and has been living in an Abbotsford care home where staff feed and dress her.

Though Bentley wrote in a living will in 1991 that she did not want to receive nourishment or liquids if she was suffering from an extreme physical or mental disability, B.C.'s highest court dismissed this week her family's appeal to let her die.

The court ruled Bentley must continue to be spoon fed by staff at the care home, despite the directives in her living will. Her family is considering an appeal. 

Usher told The Early Edition that "there's no such thing as a living will" in B.C. However, a Representation Agreement can allow someone to name a representative who can, when they are no longer able to make decisions, do so for them in regard to health and personal care.

Usher says Section 9(3) of the provincial Representation Agreement Act gives a representative the right to give or refuse consent to health care necessary to preserve the life of the person they're representing.

He points out there has been very little case law involving the Representation Agreement, and he's not aware of whether its validity has ever been challenged in court.