Saying "yes" to treatment is called consent. Saying "no" to treatment is called refusal.
A decision about treatment is only made after a discussion between the client, family and health-care team, and all questions have been answered.
Ontario law (called the “Health Care Consent Act”) helps people and families to make treatment decisions. A person is capable to decide about his/her own treatment if he/she is:
- able to understand the information needed to make the decision, and
- able to appreciate the harms, benefits and outcomes of having or not having the treatment
In Ontario, there is no special age when a person is allowed to make health-care decisions for him/herself. When a child is a baby or very young, the family makes the decisions on the child’s behalf. As a child becomes older, he/she is often better able to understand the benefits, outcomes and possible harms. So, with help from his/her family and health-care team, the child is able to make more medical decisions. Also, a child may be able to make more simple decisions, for example a 10-year-old child might be capable to decide to have a splint put on a leg, but may not be capable to decide about surgery.
In an emergency, medical help is needed right away. The health-care team may start treatment before getting consent. This happens only if waiting is dangerous to your child’s life.