As Canadians, we are blessed to have access to universal healthcare. I am not saying that our healthcare system is perfect, but it is one of the best around the world. We are also privileged to have an equitable charter of patients' rights.
As Canadians, we have the right to receive high quality patient care that is free from discrimination, abuse or harm, and be treated with compassion and respect. It is our right to have a say in the planning of our care, to get the information we need to make informed decisions, and to get the right information and education about our diagnosis, treatment and prognosis in a language we understand.
We also have the right to expect that the members of our health care team will communicate with each other to make sure we get consistent care, but at all times, to have our privacy respected.
Healthcare laws and regulations vary slightly by province and territory but all Canadians generally share the following rights and options:
1. The right to be fully informed of all treatment options. This is also known as the ‘right of informed consent.’ A healthcare professional is required to inform you of the risks and benefits of each diagnostic procedure or test, and treatment option as well as the probabilities of success and failure.
2. The right to recognition of a substitute decision maker. You have the right to appoint a substitute decision maker (SDM) - someone who will represent you if and when you can no longer make your own medical decisions. Your SDM can speak for you with the same authority as if you were speaking for yourself.
3. The right to recognition of an Advance Care Directive. Healthcare providers are required to follow your wishes for treatment, provided they are appropriate to your medical condition and are clearly outlined in a valid Advance Care Directive. The directives you prepare may include a "Do Not Resuscitate" (DNR) order. Such forms are legally binding in provinces that offer them, so long as the documentation is filled out properly, signed by your physician, and kept up to date.
4. The right to a second opinion. It is your right to consult with another physician for any reason. Most people just want the reassurance of another viewpoint and an opportunity to speak with someone who will help them to decide on the best course of treatment.
5. The right to pain and symptom management. You have the right to refuse medication, but neither the Charter of Rights and Freedoms nor healthcare legislation grant you the right to demand medication. However, terminally ill persons can typically expect a vigorous pain management regimen, even if it may hasten the dying process.
6. The right to refuse treatment. You have the right to refuse any treatment, even if refusal might hasten your death. You also have the right to discontinue any treatment, test or procedure that has already started.
7. The right to refuse food and drink. In Canada, nutrition and hydration by tube is considered medical treatment. You have the right to refuse or stop such treatment. You also have the right to refuse food and/or drink, and the right to refuse to be fed or given drinks by others. This option is referred to as "Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking" (VSED) and is supported by many palliative care providers.
8. The right to end your own life. It is legal to end your own life in Canada and has been since suicide was removed from the Criminal Code in 1972.
9. The right to request an assisted death. Since June 6, 2016, physician assisted dying or Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID) has been a legal option all across Canada for competent adults who clearly consent to the termination of life and who have a grievous and irremediable condition that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to them in the circumstances of their condition.
If you are a psychiatric patient and have questions about your rights as a patient, you can call the central office of the Psychiatric Patient Advocate Office (PPAO) at 1-800-578-2343. More information on your rights as a psychiatric patient can be found on the PPAO website.
At in4MED, we are strong supporters of patients' rights and patient autonomy. We will be by your side, making sure you get the best healthcare services possible by providing you with information about your diagnosis, connecting you to local support systems and being there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
WHO Patients' Rights https://www.who.int/genomics/public/patientrights/en/
Patient's bill of rights - A comparative overview http://publications.gc.ca/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/prb0131-e.htm
Your Rights as a Psychiatric Patient - PPAO https://www.sse.gov.on.ca/mohltc/ppao/en/Pages/InfoGuides/2016_YourRightsAsAPsychiatricPatient.aspx?openMenu=smenu_InfoGuides
UHN Patient Bill of Rights and Responsibilities https://www.uhn.ca/PatientsFamilies/Patient_Services/Documents/patient_bill_rights_and_responsibilities.pdf
Who will speak for you? ACP Kit Ontario Edition Revised April 25, 2019
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.