Without a will, man denied last wishes

Message: Dr. Alan Gow’s experience with the death of a friend prompted him to encourage citizens to put legal arrangements, such as wills and powers of attorney, in place.  - Barb Brower
Message: Dr. Alan Gow’s experience with the death of a friend prompted him to encourage citizens to put legal arrangements, such as wills and powers of attorney, in place.
— image credit: Barb Brower

Prevented by the province from honouring a dying man’s simple wishes, has saddened a local doctor and led him to urge residents to get their affairs in order.

Many years ago, when Dr. Alan Gow practised in northern B.C, he treated a patient, who had alcohol addiction problems.

While he was no longer his doctor, since the man moved to he Shuswap some seven years ago, Gow dropped in to see him once a month.

“He stated on many occasions that he wanted me to act as his power of attorney and as executor of his estate, but despite my encouragement never did make the trip to a notary public or lawyer to sign any documents,” says Gow, noting the man was estranged from his family who live in England.

But he had shared with Gow what he would like to happen after his death. He wanted to be buried in Chetwynd, the area in which he lived when he first came to Canada, a place in which he had been happy.

He asked Gow to make sure a few small items that had belonged to his grandfather were buried with him, and that anything left in his estate go to his grandchildren whom he had never met.

Gow, who is board chair of the B.C. Medical Association, a member of Interior Health’s Geriatric Mental Health Team and their physician lead on Community Integration, agreed.

Following the man’s death on Sept. 4, Gow offered to go to his home with the coroner to retrieve the items with which he wished to be buried and the contact information for his family.

Having agreed and made plans to go to the home Sept. 11, the coroner subsequently called Gow to say he had been informed the case had been turned over to the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT).

On Sept. 13, Gow called the office to make known his friend’s last wishes and to again offer his assistance.

“The trustee was rude and dismissed my offers of help stating that ‘we can find anyone anywhere in the world - we have contact and services in every country and will find the next of kin without help,’” said Gow in a letter to the Observer. “When I asked about funeral arrangements, the cold responses continued and I was informed that he will be ‘buried somewhere in the area.’”

Gow was further saddened when the man was buried in Mt. Ida Cemetery – without his grandfather’s possessions.

Following a telephone call from the Observer, Catherine Romanko, Public Guardian and Trustee, phoned Gow Oct. 21 “to address his concerns with the service he received” and subsequently released the following statement:

“• It is a core value of the Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) that all persons dealing with our office are treated with respect.

• The PGT has a complaints policy and responds fully to all complaints when they are brought to our attention.

• We were unaware at the time and very much regret that in this case someone dealing with our office may have had an experience that did not meet PGT standards.

• The circumstances in this case reflect the need for people to record their last wishes in a will to ensure that their wishes are followed.”


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