Holy health care, Batman! Do you have a plan for What if …?

The original Marvel What If…? comics series ran from 1977 to 1984 and was followed by a second volume from 1989 to 1998. Since then, 11 more instalments have been published, with the most recent 2018 collection featuring stories about the Ghost Rider, Magik, the Punisher, Thor, Spider-Man and the X-Men. In 2019, Marvel broke the news about the Disney+ adaptation, which made me very, very excited.

What If…? Considers alternate realities and possibilities such as what if T’Challa became Star-Lord or if Peggy Carter became Captain Britain?

I like the concept of What If…? The possibilities are only as endless as your own imagination.

So let’s play this with Advance Care Planning in Canada?

What If … you or a loved one were diagnosed with a serious or life-threatening illness?

What If … you or a loved one needed urgent medical care?

What If … you or they were not able to express your values and beliefs to your health-care team?

What If … you or a loved one needed someone to speak on your behalf?

This is the basis of Advance Care Planning (ACP).

According to Advance Care Planning Canada, “Advance care planning is a process of reflection and communication, a time for you to reflect on your values and wishes, and to let others know your future health and personal care preferences in the event that you are unable to consent or refuse treatment or other care.”

So, let’s start by breaking it down:

Advance: Do it now, not later.

Care: Refers to how you want to be cared for.

Planning: Means having a plan.

Simple right?

Well, a recent Nanos report shows that while more Canadians are engaging in these discussions, many Canadians still feel that:

  • ACP is complicated.
  • ACP is difficult to talk about.
  • ACP is important but have not spoken to a health-care provider about it.

Ok, let’s talk about plans.

Batman had a plan in case members of the Justice League went rogue. No matter how unlikely that might be, he was prepared. He even had a plan to defeat Superman, should the need ever arise (Hint: it involved kryptonite).

Ever wonder why TV’s A-Team could solve any problem in 60 minutes or less. It’s because Hannibal had a plan (and loved it when the plan came together).

ACP does not need to be difficult.

The single most pragmatic steps an individual can take are: 1) figure out who will make future health-care decisions for you in case you are unable to; 2) make sure that person knows your values and wishes so that they are prepared to make future decisions; and 3) talk to a trusted heath-care provider about 1) and 2).

This is not about making choices now. This is about having a plan, just in case of “What If…”

Do not leave it up to others to make guesses about your care. Planning takes stress off family and friends who may struggle if they do not know what a loved one’s wishes are or who should be making decisions during a time of stress and uncertainty.

I looked forward to seeing What If… on Disney+, which debuted recently. I enjoy the idea of multiple universes and alternate realities. But here in Canada, we don’t need to worry about alternate dimensions, just the one we experience now (Earth-616, apparently).

My hope is that Canadians will embrace the What If… associated with ACP.

In the sage words of Marvel’s Peter Quill: “I like your plan. Except, it sucks. So let me do the plan and that way it might be really good.”

The comments section is closed.

  • Helen Aqua says:

    I’m an advance care planning facilitator in BC – specifically the Vancouver area. I am focussing on the “What If” scenario for all adults 19-90+.
    I agree with points 1 & 2, with the additional comment that the decisions made can be adjusted and should be reviewed annually – perhaps the day after a birthday.
    But point #3 – problematic. Problematic because in BC there is a very good chance your family doc a) does not have hospital privileges & b) has the appointment time or a billing code to discuss ACP specifics.
    My advice to all BC adults (valid in other provinces too): never assume your family doc will be your dr in hospital or that you’ll even see them if you’re there: ask – do you have hospital privileges? How will you even know I’m in the hospital?

  • Darren Cargill says:

    Thanks to Healthy Debate for publishing my article.

    Look forward to everyone’s comments :)


Darren Cargill


Dr. Darren Cargill is a fellow of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, and American Association of Hospice Palliative Medicine. He is the past medical director for the Hospice of Windsor and Essex County and lead physician for its community-based Palliative Medicine Program. He is one of only two certified hospice medical directors in Canada and has his designation as a certified Canadian physician executive.  He received HPCO’s Larry Librach award in 2017 for excellence in leadership and advancing palliative care through mentorship.

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