In another example of how citizens are routinely put at risk by the health care system, an Alberta judge has ruled that patients and their substitute decision makers do not need to be informed about the risks of proposed drugs or medical procedures.
In her report on the fatality inquiry into the Zyprexa-caused death of 61-year-old Carol Pifko in an Edmonton AB nursing home, Provincial Court judge Elizabeth Johnson ignored all recommendations put to her, including that long-term care staff inform patients and their families of the risks associated with Zyprexa (olanzapine). Judge Johnson wrote:
“It would seem to fetter a physician in how he or she deals with a patient or exercises his or her professional judgment.”
The judge’s statement does not square with the law. Every citizen in Canada has the right to refuse consent to medical treatment (including medication), and to be given information by the doctor about what treatments are proposed. That is the law. Canadian laws protect us from being subjected against our will to medical treatment or care that we do not consent to (with one exception, if a person is deemed to be a danger to others or themselves). Our laws were designed to prevent the atrocities committed by doctors in dictatorships such as Nazi Germany.
Informed consent is essential
It is recognized that information about proposed treatments, including medication, is essential to making health care consent decisions. “For consent to treatment to be considered valid, it must be an “informed” consent. The patient must have been given an adequate explanation about the nature of the proposed investigation or treatment and its anticipated outcome as well as the significant risks involved and alternatives available.” Consent – A guide for Canadian physicians, Kenneth G. Evans, General Counsel, Canadian Medical Protective Society, Fourth Edition.
If the person/patient is incapable, then their appointed substitute decision maker (SDM) has these rights. SDMs are also referred to as personal/health care representatives or proxies. If the patient has not appointed an SDM, (more…)