06 May 2009

Medical care and patient rights

Patients nearing the end of their life face many tough decisions. Understanding your rights regarding the healthcare, legal and personal choices you may have to make is critical.

There are many difficult decisions facing patient towards the end of their life. Some of these decisions require a great deal of thought and may even require some additional research.

Most hospices rely on the services of the social worker within the palliative care team to assist the patient with financial planning, wills and advance directives.

Patients and caregivers may also be eligible for a state-subsidised grant which the social worker can assist with.

The National Cancer Institute and Cancer Care Inc. have designed this fact sheet to help patients understand the medical, legal, and personal choices they may face.

  • Patients are entitled to complete information about their illness and how it may affect their lives, and they have the right to share or withhold that information from others.

  • People should be informed about any procedures and treatments that are planned, the benefits and risks, and any alternatives that may be available.

  • Patients may be asked to sign an "informed consent" form, which includes this information. Before signing such a form, patients should read it carefully and ask the doctor any questions they might have.

  • Patients have the right to make decisions about their own treatment. These decisions may change over time.

  • In the face of worsening disease, some patients may want to try every available drug or treatment in the hope that something will be effective. Other patients may choose to forgo aggressive medical treatment.

  • Many patients turn to family members, friends, or caregivers for advice. But it is the patient's decision how much or how little treatment to have.

  • Sometimes a patient is unable to make this decision, due to severe illness or a change in mental condition. That is why it is important for people with cancer to make their wishes known in advance.



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