Patients' rights


The Health Care Consent Act deals with guidelines for consent to treatment, personal care services or admission to a long-term care facility, and the roles and responsibilities of substitute decision-makers.

  • A health practitioner cannot administer treatment, unless you give consent or your substitute decision-maker gives consent.
  • Consent must relate to treatment, be informed, be given voluntarily, and not obtained through misrepresentation or fraud; consent may be withdrawn at any time.
  • No consent is required to administer emergency care if a person is incapable.
  • Consent must be given or refused by a substitute decision-maker in accordance with any known wishes of the incapable person, and if none, in the person's best interests.

The Mental Health Act provides guidelines for admitting a person to a psychiatric facility as a voluntary or involuntary patient. The MHA also outlines the rights of patients in psychiatric facilities, as well as guidelines for issuing, renewing and terminating community treatment orders.

  • A person may be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for psychiatric assessment if s/he is a danger to self or others, or the person his not able to care for himself or herself.
  • Doctors, police officers and individuals can get an order that a person be examined.
  • A person may be held at a psychiatric facility for assessment for up to 72 hours, but no treatment is permitted without the person's consent.
  • After 72 hours the person must be released if he/she does not voluntarily admit himself/herself, unless a physician signs a certificate of involuntary admission.
  • A certificate of involuntary admission allows a person to be held as a patient for two weeks. At the end of that time, a certificate of renewal must be filled out in order to continue to detain the patient. The first certificate of renewal is valid for one month, the second time it is valid for two months, and each time after it is valid for three months.
  • Any person subject to a certificate of involuntary admission or certificate of renewal can meet with a rights advisor. If the patient requests, a rights advisor will also help the patient appeal the involuntary admission at Consent and Capacity Board, or afterwards, to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
  • A community treatment order (CTO) may be imposed for 6 months at a time where a person has a pattern of being admitted to a psychiatric facility to stabilize his/her conditions and after being released, s/he stops treatment or care and supervision, and as a result, s/he must be re-admitted to a psychiatric facility.

Canadians are protected by the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). People in Ontario are also protected by the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA), the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

  • These laws place limits on the collection, use and disclosure of personal information that the government and agencies have in their records.
  • Health information custodians (HICs), including health care practitioners, such as your doctor, dentist or social worker, hospitals, pharmacies, homes for special care, community health and mental health programs, and community care access centres, must follow rules about using and sharing your personal information about your physical health and mental health, your health history, your family health history, the health care you have received, your health card number and who your substitute decision-maker is.
  • You can expressly prohibit a HIC from using or sharing your personal health information.
  • If you do not expressly prohibit this, HICs can sometimes share your information with each other without asking you.

Learn more

  1. Decide if your legal problem relates to patient rights.
  2. Read Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to learn more about your rights as a patient.
  3. Follow the Steps for instructions on how to enforce your patient rights.
  4. Review the Resources to find new and in-depth legal information about patient rights.
  5. See the Links for news and other helpful websites.

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DisclaimerLast updated 07/30/2009