Introduction to British Columbia's Health Care Laws

In the province of British Columbia, Canada, there are several laws that guide the process for for medical treatment, consent, capacity, voluntary/involuntary admissions to hospital, and protection and treatment of individuals with medical and psychiatric disorders in British Columbia:

  • The Mental Health Act (MHA) provides physicians and hospitals with the legal authority to admit and treat patients with a mental disorder (which may include primary psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, and neuropsychiatric disorders such as traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or dementia) in a designated facility if they meet certain specified criteria. The law also has patient protections and rights to ensure the law is applied in an appropriate manner.
  • The Health Care (Consent) and Care Facility (Admission) Act (HCCCFAA) contains the laws for medical treatment, and consent for health care (excluding mental disorders) in British Columbia. The HCCCFAA outlines what a patient’s rights are, the elements of informed content, when consent is required, and what to do if a patient is found to be incapable.
  • The Adult Guardianship Act (AGA) is a law in British Columbia for protecting adults with an illness, disease, injury, or condition that makes them vulnerable to abuse, neglect, and/or self-neglect.
  • Finally, advanced care planning (ACP) allow individuals in the province to express one's wishes or instructions for future health care treatment in the event they become incapable of deciding for themselves, using tools such as Power of Attorney (POA), representation agreements, and advance directives (AD). The Acts that guide ACP in British Columbia include:
    • Power of Attorney Act: Allows an adult to authorize another person, called an attorney, to make financial and legal decisions on the adult's behalf; an enduring Power of Attorney enables an attorney to continue to act in the event of mental incapability.
    • The Representation Agreement Act: Allows an adult to appoint a representative to handle their financial affairs, legal, personal care and health care decisions. The Act provides for planning in advance of mental incapability, and is an alternative to court appointed committees
    • Patients Property Act: Establishes procedures for the court to appoint a committee of person or estate on behalf of an incapable adult. Provides for the powers of the Public Guardian and Trustee to act as Committee of Estate as a result of the certificate of incapability process under the Adult Guardianship Act.
    • Public Guardian and Trustee Act: Establishes the Public Guardian and Trustee that is mandated to protect the legal and financial interests of children and youth under the age of 19, to administer the estates of missing and deceased persons, and to protect the legal and financial interests of incapable adults.