Canadian law recognizes the fundamental right of every mentally capable person to accept or refuse health care regardless of the risks or benefits. It is also acknowledged that, without sufficient information about proposed treatment, a patient cannot make an educated choice.
Dentists and other health practitioners are sometimes confused about how much and what kind of information must be provided to ensure patients are able to make fully informed health care decisions. In addition to having their questions answered, patients are entitled to be informed about:
- the nature of the treatment;
- the expected benefits of the treatment;
- the material risks of the treatment;
- the material side effects of the treatment;
- alternative courses of action;
- the likely consequences of not having the treatment.
We also require dentists to discuss direct and other costs of treatment with patients as part of the disclosure process.
Resources and Featured Articles
The issue of informed consent to dental treatment is encountered frequently in complaints reviewed by the Inquiries, Reports and Complaints (ICRC) Committee.
Ensuring patients understand and agree to the cost of treatment… It’s all about good and early communication
Dentists have a legal and ethical obligation to obtain their patients’ informed consent prior to the start of treatment. Discussions about dental services also need to include information about the costs involved and the patient’s responsibilities regarding payment. It is prudent to advise patients if you intend to charge fees that are above the fees listed in the Ontario Dental Association’s Suggested Fee Guide.
One of the core values at the foundation of RCDSO’s Code of Ethics is respect for patient autonomy. This means that dentists have a duty to understand and respect the rights of patients to make informed decisions, based on their personal values and beliefs. Dentists have a professional, legal and ethical obligation to involve their patients as full partners in the decision-making process.