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Right to Treatment Policy

Policy Issue

People with developmental disabilities are frequently denied access to health care or are considered a lower priority due to their disability. Decisions have been made to withhold life-sustaining treatment from people with developmental disabilities, whereas people without the disability with the same physical conditions are provided with treatment. This differential access to health care based on disability status contravenes both federal and provincial human rights legislation.

The Health (Care) Consent and Care (Facility) Admission Act provides protections for people with disabilities, including a process for obtaining substitute consent when someone is assessed as being incapable of providing consent to a specific health care treatment. In spite of the protections in the Act, people with developmental disabilities still remain vulnerable in situations where health care is not made available. People with developmental disabilities who do not have spouses or traditional families, are vulnerable to judgments by health care providers about whether their life is worth living.

  • Inadequate access to health care service jeopardizes the person’s life and may:
  • Increase the risk of institutionalization;
  • prolong hospitalization;
  • jeopardize quality of life; or
  • result in premature death.

Purpose

To ensure that people with developmental disabilities are provided with the health care they need, in a timely way.

Background

In spring 1998, the government issued "A Report on Accessing Equitable Health Care in British Columbia for People with Disabilities". The report confirmed that individuals with disabilities are not always appropriately treated nor supported when attempting to access health care services.

Specifically the report identified that the more significant the disability, the more likely it is that the person will not receive appropriate assessment or treatment. It further identified that there is a general lack of distinction between disability and illness.

Policy Statements

  1. People with developmental disabilities are entitled to receive the same health care as someone without a disability who has the same health care needs.
  2. People with developmental disabilities have the right to the health care treatment they need within a reasonable timeframe.
  3. Any decision to withhold healthcare treatment should not be based on the presence of a developmental disability.
  4. Health care providers have a responsibility to provide information in a manner that the adult understands and to encourage the involvement of supportive family and friends.
  5. Health care providers should seek consent from the individual for every healthcare decision, and where that person is incapable of providing consent for that decision, to seek consent from a legal substitute decision maker.