Tag: Health Care Consent Act
Last week, the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) released its Final Report on Legal Capacity, Decision-making and Guardianship. The Final Report is the result of work conducted by a LCO Advisory Group since early 2013.
In the Final Report, the LCO outlines the strengths and attributes of Ontario’s capacity and guardianship regime, as well as areas of concern. Some key areas of concern the LCO identifies include:
- The system is confusing and lacks coordination;
- There is a lack of clarity and consistency in the law for capacity assessments;
- Legal tools are not responsive enough for the range of needs of those directly affected;
- Individuals, families, and service providers are not receiving enough support;
- The current oversight and monitoring mechanisms for substitute decision makers are insufficient;
- The dispute resolution mechanisms under the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (SDA) are inaccessible to many.
The Final Report includes recommendations for reforms to law, policy and practice. These recommendations relate to (1) improving access to the law, (2) promoting understanding of the law by those directly affected, (3) strengthening protection of rights under the Health Care Consent Act, (4) reducing inappropriate intervention, (5) increasing accountability and transparency, and (6) enabling greater choice of substitute decision makers.
The Final Report makes 58 recommendations on the statutory regime for legal capacity, decision-making, and guardianship, including proposed reforms to the SDA, the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, and the Mental Health Act. Some of the Final Report’s key recommendations on the law of substitute decision-making include:
- Improved access to capacity assessments under the SDA;
- A standard-form “Statement of Commitment” required to be signed by persons accepting an appointment as an attorney;
- The delivery of “Notices of Attorney Acting” at the first time the attorney acts, delivered to the grantor, the spouse, any previous attorney and any monitor appointed, as well as for any other persons identified in the Power of Attorney;
- The option to name a “monitor”, who would have statutory powers to visit and communicate with the grantor and powers to review accounts and records kept by the attorney;
- Development of time-limited or reviewable guardianship orders;
- Development of limited property guardianships, in parallel with existing limited personal care guardianships;
- Further research and consultation be conducted towards establishing a dedicated licensing and regulatory system for professional substitute decision-makers;
- Further research and consultation be conducted towards allowing community agencies to provide substitute decision-making for day-to-day decisions;
- Clarification of the duty of health practitioners to provide information to substitute decision-makers upon a finding of incapacity; and
- Empowering adjudicators under the SDA to order substitute decision-makers to obtain education on specific aspects of his or her duties.
The Final Report suggests short, medium, and long-term plans for implementing the LCO’s recommendations. You can find a copy of the full report at the LCO website.
Thank you for reading.
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Since Bell’s “Let’s Talk” Mental Health Awareness Day took place this past Wednesday, I thought today would be a good opportunity to blog about the topic of consenting to treatment.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health has reported that 1 in every 5 Canadians, during any particular year, will experience an issue with their mental health. In light of this staggering statistic, it is possible that an individual may suffer from a mental illness that temporarily or permanently prevents him or her from consenting to treatment.
In Ontario, health practitioners are statutorily required pursuant to section 10 of the Health Care Consent Act (“HCCA”) to obtain consent before a proposed treatment can be administered. Consent must be obtained from either a capable patient or a substitute decision maker for the incapable patient. My colleague previously blogged about who qualifies as a substitute decision maker. In accordance with the HCCA, a patient is capable of giving consent if he or she is able to understand the necessary information to make an informed decision about the treatment and the consequence of the decision or lack of decision.
Despite the requirement for consent set out in section 10, section 25(2) of the HCCA allows for the treatment of incapable persons in urgent circumstances, and specifically provides:
Despite section 10, a treatment may be administered without consent to a person who is incapable with respect to the treatment, if, in the opinion of the health practitioner proposing the treatment,
(a) there is an emergency; and
(b) the delay required to obtain a consent or refusal on the person’s behalf will prolong the suffering that the person is apparently experiencing or will put the person at risk of sustaining serious bodily harm.
Although there is some leeway for health practitioners to provide treatment to patients in urgent need of treatment without the consent of the patient or their substitute decision maker, it is nonetheless important to ensure that if you or someone you know suffers from a mental health issue that powers of attorney are in order to avoid delays when decisions need to be made about treatment.
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend!
Section 10 of Ontario’s Health Care Consent Act 1996 (“the Act”) states that a health practitioner shall not administer a treatment for a person unless the person has given consent (if capable with respect to the treatment) or if the person’s substitute decision maker has given consent on the person’s behalf (if incapable with respect to the treatment). Simple concept at first blush, but a closer examination reveals some complexities, a handful of which we’ll explore below.
What constitutes informed consent?
One of the defining elements of consent to treatment, is that such consent must be “informed”. By framing consent in this way, the Act promotes communication between health practitioners and their patients or clients and encourages patients to exercise their autonomy. According to the Act, a consent to treatment is informed if, before giving it,
a) The person received the information about the treatment that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would require to make a decision and
b) The person received responses to his/her requests for additional information about the treatment.
Information provided by the health practitioner must include the nature of the treatment (diagnosis and recommended treatment), expected benefits, its material risks and side effects, alternative courses of action (if any) and the likely consequences of not having the treatment. If the patient is deemed to be incapable, then the practitioner must identify the substitute decision-maker (s. 20 (1) of the Act sets out a specific hierarchy of individuals/agencies who may give or refuse consent) and go through the same process to obtain consent.
In a tragic case decided in 2009 (upheld on appeal earlier this year) involving catastrophic injury to an infant sustained at birth as a result of an unsuccessful attempt at a forceps-assisted delivery, the trial judge found that the doctor in question failed to obtain informed consent to that procedure. Risks and benefits of the assisted delivery had not been explained to the mother, nor had the option of continuing to push been presented to her for consideration.
What constitutes informed refusal?
Election to forgo the treatment recommended by the practitioner after the disclosure of the relevant information constitutes “informed refusal”. A competent patient may refuse a treatment, even if it is in their best interests to have the treatment administered. The CMA Code of Ethics (2004) states that the practitioner has a responsibility to respect the right of a patient to reject any medical care recommended.
The Act considers refusal of consent to include withdrawal of consent.
When may the requirement for consent to treatment be waived?
Consent from a capable patient may be waived if the situation is deemed by the health practitioner to be an emergency (i.e. the person is experiencing severe suffering or is at risk of sustaining serious bodily harm if the treatment is not administered promptly). Similarly, a treatment may be given without consent to an incapable person if there is an emergency and the delay required to obtain consent/refusal on the person’s behalf will prolong the person’s suffering or will put the person at risk of sustaining serious bodily harm. Interestingly, in an emergency situation, in the event that a substitute decision-maker is present and refuses to consent to treatment and is not acting in accordance with prior known wishes or is not acting in the patient’s best interests, then s. 27 of the Act gives the practitioner the power to administer treatment despite the refusal.
What is the age of consent in Ontario?
Contrary to widespread belief, there is no age of consent in Ontario. Instead, the principles of capacity (to consent to treatment) are applied, as per s. 4 (1) of the Act, i.e. does the person understand the information that is salient to the decision, and do they appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of a decision or a lack of decision. In short, the concept of maturity is used as the yardstick, rather than chronological age. The issue of age of consent has come under the spotlight in recent years as a result of Ontario’s school-based HPV (Human Papillomavirus) immunization program for Grade 8 girls. All of Ontario’s Public Health Units request parental consent before HPV immunization at school-based clinics. That being said, a student who is deemed to be capable with regards to consenting to or refusing the immunization has the right to do so, irrespective of whether their parent signed or did not sign the consent form on their behalf.
In their Consent to Treatment Policy (#4-05), the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario supports this framework by stating that "the capacity to exercise independent judgment for health care decisions varies according to the individual and the complexity of the decision at hand. Physicians must make a determination of capacity to consent for a child just as they would for an adult."
- ‘Health practitioner’ refers to a member of a College under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, a naturopath registered as a drugless therapist under the Drugless Practitioners Act or a member of a category of persons prescribed by the regulations as health practitioners. Examples include (but are not limited to) physicians, dentists, physiotherapists, and nurses.
- As per the HCCA, ‘treatment’ means anything that is done for a therapeutic, preventive, palliative, diagnostic, cosmetic or other health-related purpose, and includes a course of treatment, plan of treatment or community treatment plan.
Yesterday’s blog spoke to the issue of an Application for Psychiatric Assessment (Form 1) under the Mental Health Act R.S.O. 1990. To review, upon completion of the psychiatric assessment, the patient must either be released or admitted as an involuntary patient, a voluntary patient, or an informal patient.
• Involuntary Patient: Before you become an involuntary patient, a doctor must assess you and place you on a Form 3 (Certificate of Involuntary Admission), which lasts for two weeks. The Mental Health Act speaks very specifically to the legal criteria that must be met in order for such a Certificate to be completed. An involuntary patient is not permitted to leave the hospital or psychiatric facility.
• Voluntary Patient: There is no portion of the Mental Health Act that authorizes a psychiatric facility to detain a voluntary patient. In this regard, a voluntary patient can leave the facility at any time, as long as they do not pose a risk to themselves or others. If they were to be identified as posing a risk to themselves or others, then they must be made an involuntary patient (by means of a Form 3) in order to be detained.
• Informal Patient: An informal patient is either a child under the age of 16 years, or someone who is incapable of making treatment decisions for themselves (as defined by the Health Care Consent Act) and who therefore has been admitted to the facility under the consent of another person (i.e. ‘substitute decision-maker’; usually a concerned family member). The informal patient cannot be held against their will in the hospital, however, an informal patient can be made ‘involuntary’ if a doctor deems that a Form 3 is necessary.
Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger
Listen to the Health Care Consent Act.
This week on Hull on Estates, Megan Connolly and Sean Graham review the Golubchuk case out of Manitoba and discuss the Health Care Consent Act of Ontario.