Nova Scotia

New online app to help Nova Scotians write living wills amid COVID-19 concerns

A new online app is helping Nova Scotians prepare for untimely illnesses, including COVID-19.

A Dalhousie professor created the app with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia last year

A new online app is helping Nova Scotians write living wills amid the COVID-19 outbreak. (Shutterstock)

A new online app is helping Nova Scotians write living wills amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Jocelyn Downie, a professor at Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law, started developing the app with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia last year.

But Downie says the app is more important than ever.

"We weren't anticipating this pandemic at all," Downey told CBC's Information Morning on Friday. "It is just incredibly fortuitous that we have it ready now."

A living will, or personal directive, is a legal document that helps family members and health-care providers make decisions when a person is left incompetent from injury or illness.

As of Saturday, 90 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

Jocelyn Downie, a professor at Dalhousie's Schulich School of Law, started developing the app with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia last year. (Courtesy Jocelyn Downie)

In Canada, 55 people have died from the virus as of Saturday. Infection can lead to death but most people don't experience severe illness, according to the Nova Scotia government.

But Downie said it's still important to be prepared.

"People don't think, 'Oh, I need this,' and yet everybody from 18 up should have a personal directive because [it's] not just the coronavirus situation, you might get hit by a car," she said.

Personal directives identify who a person wants to be their delegate if they can no longer make their own decisions. The document can also state instructions, wishes, values and beliefs about personal care.

First of its kind in Canada

Downie said the app is the first of its kind in Canada — and is specific to Nova Scotia legislation to prevent invalid documents.

"Sometimes people have personal directives that are very unclear and they're not helpful to the clinicians who are trying to figure out what it is this person wanted," she said.

For the first time in Canada, a free online app can help you create your own personal directive document. It was developed by Jocelyn Downie, a professor at Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law. 8:04

Nova Scotians can fill out a personal directive online from their own home. Once the application is submitted, the document is valid and can be printed or emailed.

Downie said personal directives are not common in Nova Scotia but it's best to be prepared, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Bad things can happen and you [might be] unable to speak for yourself, so everyone should have one, but right now it's particularly acute."

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