Do doctors have to follow the Human Rights Code?

Ontario's human rights laws protect you from when you are receiving healthcare services. The Human Rights Code applies to services you receive from a home care program, at the hospital, in a doctor's office, or at another healthcare facility.

It is not against the Code for a healthcare provider to make treatment decisions based on their professional medical knowledge.    

But, it is against the Code for a healthcare provider to make treatment decisions based on personal characteristics alone, without a medical reason for doing so. Personal characteristics include your:

  • race, colour, or ethnic background
  • citizenship or the country you are from
  • religion
  • age
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • physical or mental , including an addiction
  • marital status (for example, married, divorced, single, or living common-law)

This is called discrimination. It is also discrimination if the healthcare provider refuses to treat you, ignores you, or makes comments to you because of one of these personal characteristics.  

People with mental health disabilities

People with mental health disabilities often deal with the stereotype that they are violent and dangerous. For example, it is discrimination if a doctor asks for extra security measures for a person with a mental health disability if the decision is based this stereotype and there is no reason to think this person may be violent.  

Indigenous people

Indigenous people often deal with a stereotype that they abuse drugs and alcohol. For example, a doctor might refuse to prescribe painkillers if they rely on this stereotype and think the Indigenous patient has a substance abuse problem. This is discrimination and it is against the law. But it is not discrimination if the decision is based only on a medical review that shows the patient is addicted to painkillers. 

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