Ontario’s new Consent to Treatment Act could create havoc with the treatment doctors and healthcare workers are able to provide.
Already, one doctor has shut down her clinic saying that the legislation has makes it impossible for her to care for her patients.
“I’m not going to open my clinic until somebody sorts this around,” said Dr. Lynne Margesson in an April interview with the Toronto Star.
Margesson, who runs a clinic for the mentally disabled in Kingston, Ontario, is incensed that under the guidelines of the Consent to Treatment Act she must gain permission from a patient’s family or guardian before treating a patient.
“One patient is a catatonic schizophrenic whose 96-year-old mother is partially blind and deaf. How am I supposed to get through to her,” complained Dr. Margesson
Ontario’s Family Coalition Party leader Don Pennell also expressed his party’s disdain for the legislation.
He feels that the law should be re-worked as soon as possible. “It’s never a good situation when the state’s control of a patient’s well-being supersedes that of the patient’s family or relations,” he said.
“It also prevents the healthcare workers from doing their job. It is their job to look after patients but new legislation ties their hands and prevents them from doing so,” Pennell said, recounting his own tangle with the Power of Attorney Act.
Pennell’s mother is a resident in a Toronto-area nursing home. She had been declared lucid by a panel of healthcare experts and was therefore competent to make her own medical decisions.
Last month, she began refusing liquids at the nursing home and became extremely dehydrated as a result. Under the new legislation, because a panel had determined her competence, the nursing staff had to acquiesce to the patient’s demands and were forced to stand by powerlessly as she had not appointed a Power of Attorney, no one could make the treatment decision for her.
Finally, they sent her off to hospital. It was not until she was there that the emergency staff were able to take over and administer the liquid intravenously. Had the Consent to Treatment Act not been in effect, all of this could have been avoided and the patient could have received the simple treatment at the nursing home.
Pennell has now signed a statement and has become attorney for his mother’s medical and property decisions. If he had not signed such a statement, the Public Guardian’s office would have eventually taken over and appointed an official to make the decision for her.
“I was fortunate because I was familiar with the legislation. There are many Ontarians who are not and don’t know what to expect from this legislation,” said Pennell.
Rob Smalley, a spokesperson for the health ministry, responded to the criticism saying, “We’re not trying to tie the hands of health practitioners at all. We’re just giving people the right to control their own bodies.”