Can a doctor force me to get treatment?

1. Understand how consent works

Consent is the same as permission. A needs your consent or permission to treat you.

Express and implied consent

There are 2 types of consent:

  1. Express consent is when you give permission verbally or in writing. For example, by saying something like, “Yes, I agree” or signing a consent document.
  2. Implied consent is when you give permission by what you do, or by your actions. For example, rolling up your sleeve and presenting your arm may be enough to tell a nurse that you agree to get an injection.

Valid consent

In order for your consent to be valid it has to be informed and voluntary.

Informed consent means that you got the information you need to make a decision, including:

  • how the is given
  • expected benefits
  • possible risks
  • side effects
  • other treatment options
  • what can happen if you don’t get treated

The information must be truthful. For example, a doctor can’t tell you that there are no risks if there really are risks.

Voluntary consent means you really have the option to say “no” to treatment. If someone is threatening you or forcing you to get treatment, your consent isn’t voluntary. If the doctor tells you that you must agree to treatment before you can get an appointment with them, your consent isn’t voluntary. Or if a family member is forcing you to get treatment, your consent isn’t voluntary. 

Withdraw or cancel consent

You can change your mind at any time – before you start or after you start treatment. If you change your mind about a treatment you’ve agreed to, tell your health-care provider right away. They can’t continue to treat you after you’ve changed your mind.

Emergencies

In emergency situations a health-care provider can treat you without consent. But only if you’re severely hurt or will be seriously hurt if you are not treated urgently.

For example, if you have a heart attack, a nurse or doctor could give you CPR without your consent. Or if you’re having a mental health crisis and become violent, a psychiatrist could provide urgent counselling or medicine to help calm you, so that you don’t injure yourself or anyone else. But even in emergency situations, the health-care provider should try to get your permission or your SDM’s permission.

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