Knowing your rights in a health-care setting

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Learn about your rights when it comes to making your own health-care decisions and your right to privacy.

Key points

  • There is no legal age of consent for health care which means that you have the right to make your own decisions about your health as long as you are capable.
  • You have the right to be informed about the treatments you are receiving, to freely make health-care decisions on your own, and to refuse treatment if you wish.
  • You have the right to confidentiality: your private health information cannot be shared with others and you have the right to speak privately with your health-care providers.

Your rights and your health care

Every person who receives health care in the province of Ontario has certain rights under the law. Even babies, who are not yet capable of making their own decisions have rights. Their parents or caregivers and their health-care providers must ensure that a baby’s rights are protected.

As a teenager who is becoming more mature and more capable of making your own decisions, you, your parents or caregivers and your health-care providers can work together to ensure that your rights are protected. This article will explain your rights related to making your own decisions about your health and your right to privacy.

You have the right to make your own decisions about your health care

Any person who is capable has the right to make their own decisions about their health. In health care, capacity means that you understand the information about the decision you are going to make, and you appreciate what the consequences of the decision mean to you as a person. In Ontario, there is no legal age of consent for health care which means that, for some decisions, a person may be capable of consenting when they are 11, 12 or 13 years old.

In order for you to make the best possible decisions about your health, you have the following rights:

  • To be informed
    • You must be provided with all of the information needed to make a decision. This includes information about a treatment, information about side effects of treatments, information about alternatives to a treatment and information about what might happen if you choose to refuse a treatment.
  • To make a voluntary decision
    • Any decisions you make about your health care must be made freely. You cannot be forced or coerced to make a certain decision by either your parents/caregivers or your health-care providers. You can always ask your parents and your health-care providers to help you make a decision, but it must be your choice.
  • To refuse treatment
    • Related to your right to make decisions freely, you have the right to refuse any treatment, even if your health-care provider or your parents feel that treatment is in your best interests. You can also refuse to be examined by a health-care provider.

    You have the right to confidential health care

    As above, any person who is capable of making decisions about their health care has the right to confidentiality or privacy related to their health care. This includes the following:

    • Your personal health information (such as your birthday, address, medical history, medications and treatments) cannot be shared with other people without your permission. Health-care providers are not allowed to share information with your parents without your permission. (There are exceptions to this rule. See the article on Confidentiality to learn more.)
    • You must be allowed to speak privately with your health-care providers. If there is some information that you want to tell your health-care provider but not your parents, you can always ask to speak to your health-care provider privately. If it is safe to do so, you may arrange and attend health care appointments by yourself.
Last updated: November 10th 2021