Your Rights and Choices as a Patient
While the wording of the applicable legislation varies by province, in general, as a Canadian you have the following rights and options:
- Right to be Fully Informed of all Treatment OptionsThis is also known as the Right of Informed Consent. Your physician is required to inform you of the risks and benefits of each option as well as the probabilities of treatment success.
- Right to have Advance Care Directives Recognized
Healthcare providers and your substitute decision-maker are legally bound to follow your directives. Click here to become a member and receive your complimentary Advance Care Directive Kit.
- Right to have a Substitute Decision-Maker RecognizedIf you are no longer able to participate in medical decision-making you have the right to have your substitute decision-maker (SDM) speak for you with the same authority as if you were speaking for yourself.
- Right to Change DoctorsYour physician is a critical member of your health care team. If you feel your physician is not willing or comfortable discussing your end-of-life options with you, you have every right to ask for another physician or at the very least another opinion.
- Right to Pain and Symptoms ManagementYou have the right to have your pain and symptoms relieved with sufficient medication and vigorous pain management even if such aggressive treatment may hasten your dying process.
- Right to Refuse Treatment
You have the right to refuse any and all treatment even if such refusal might bring about your death more quickly. The only exception to this might be the provision of emergency care in the event that you or your substitute decision-maker is not able to make your wishes known.
- Right to Discontinue TreatmentEthically and legally there is no distinction between discontinuing treatment and not having begun it in the first place. Hence you have the right to discontinue treatment.
- Right to Refuse Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)If you're in a hospital, ensuring this right generally requires a physician to write a DNR order. If you're outside of hospital some provinces now have a legal document called "Do Not Resuscitate Confirmation Form". This needs to be completed by a physician but has the same effect as a DNR order.
- Right to Refuse Food and Drink (VSED)
In Canada, nutrition and hydration by tube is considered medical treatment and you have the right to refuse or discontinue such treatment.
You also have the right to refuse to take food or drink orally or to be fed or given drinks by others. This option is commonly referred to as Voluntary Stopping of Eating and Drinking (VSED) and is supported by many paliative care providers.
For more information about voluntary stopping of eating and drinking, download this detailed information sheet for clients.
- 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.