When It Comes to Consent for Nutrition Care, What Are Your Rights?
All healthcare providers in Ontario, including dietitians, are required by law to obtain informed consent from their patients or clients before they can perform any non-emergency treatment. What does this mean for you? What are your rights as a health consumer when you visit a dietitian?
The profession of dietetics is the only regulated nutrition profession in Ontario. To practise dietetics, dietitians must be registered with the College of Dietitians of Ontario. While anyone can legally provide nutrition education and advice, what sets dietitians apart is that, under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, dietitians are accountable to the College of Dietitians of Ontario for safe, competent and ethical practice.
Each dietitian must participate in quality assurance programs to ensure continuing competency. Under certain circumstances, dietitians and employers have an obligation to report dietitians who are not practicing ethically, safely and competently.
Protecting the Public
The College works to protect you, the public. We regulate dietitians to ensure Ontarians receive the best nutrition care possible.
The fundamental principles and laws about consent are all based on respect for a client’s right to make informed decisions about their health care and personal health information.
In keeping with the Health Care Consent Act, 1996, and the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, dietitians have a legal and professional responsibility to obtain informed consent from a client for nutrition treatment and for collecting, using and disclosing the client’s personal health or other confidential information. This professional obligation is also articulated in the College’s Professional Misconduct Regulation.
When You Consult A Dietitian
If you are consulting a dietitian for help with any nutrition related concern, you have a right to understand any treatment they propose. The consent process is meant to help you make an informed decision about your health. It is your right to know what will be done to you, the risks, the benefits of a treatment, and the alternatives available. You also have a right to refuse a treatment.
It is the responsibility of the dietitian to make sure that you have given your informed consent before treatment is started. Once you have given your consent, you can also change your mind and say no.
Giving consent is not only about filling out a form. What’s important is that you have a frank and open conversation with your dietitian. Here are some questions you can ask during the consent conversation:
- Why is this treatment being proposed?
- What exactly is the nature of the treatment or assessment?
- Who will be following-up with me?
- How will the treatment help me?
- Are there any risks or side effects I need to consider?
- Are there any other options? How would they help? What are their risks and side effects?
- If I decide not to do this, what could happen to me? Are there consequences?
You should feel that you can ask your dietitian (or any other health care provider) all of these questions and more — and get the answers you need to make an informed decision about your own health.