As Canadians age and the need for health care increases, it is invaluable to be aware of your rights as a patient to ensure you make informed decisions about medical treatment decisions.
Right to Information on All Treatment Options
Also known as the Right of Informed Consent, your doctor is required to inform you of consideration information, including of the risks and benefits of each treatment option, whether the treatment is likely to improve your condition, prevent the condition from deteriorating or reduce the extent to which or the rate at which the condition is likely to deteriorate, whether the condition is likely to improve, remain the same or deteriorate without the treatment, and whether a less restrictive or less intrusive treatment would be as beneficial as the treatment being proposed. The physician should also inform you of the probability of success of a particular treatment, the expected healing period and how much improvement you can expect.
Right to a Second Opinion
You are free to obtain a second opinion if you feel you lack all the information needed or don’t feel a rapport with the health care provider. It is important that you feel confident about medical treatment since you will be living with consequences of your decisions.
Right to Accept, Refuse or Discontinue Treatment
No one can force you to take a particular treatment or medication, even if refusal could shorten your life span.
You have the right to discontinue a treatment that has already started. There is no ethical or legal distinction from discontinuing or not having started a treatment. This includes the right to refuse nutrition and hydration by tube, which is considered a medical treatment. Further, you can voluntarily stop eating and drinking orally, including being fed by others.
In Ontario, you are able to plan not to receive Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) in an emergency with a Do Not Resuscitate Confirmation Order.
Right to Pain and Symptoms Management
Your doctor may prescribe medication to manage pain and relieve symptoms in looking out for your best interests. Terminally ill patients can expect sufficient medication and vigorous pain management even if such treatment may hasten the dying process.
Right to Die
It used to be a criminal offense in Canada to end your own life until 1972. There remains much controversy, however, about assisted suicide. More information about these matters is available at dyingwithdignity.ca.
Right to a Substitute Decision-Maker
In certain circumstances, it may be in your best interests to have a substitute decision-maker speak and make decisions on your behalf. The substitute decision maker may be a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, a Court Appointed Guardian, a Representative authorized by the Consent and Capacity Board or otherwise an individual given authority in accordance with a prescribed list in accordance with s20(1) Health Care Consent Act, 1996. Having a Power of Attorney for Personal Care (including living Will instructions) in place the simplest and most cost-effective option. Talk to us about making a Power of Attorney for Personal Care.
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