Ethics and Patient Rights

What Your Doctor Can and Can't Do

How your doctor can help you

Your doctor can tell you what treatments may help you and how they work. Your doctor is responsible for explaining the following to you, in terms you can understand:

  • your medical condition
  • the diagnostic tests and treatment he or she feels are necessary
  • the risks and benefits of the treatment he or she recommends
  • any alternative to those procedures
  • the risks of refusing treatment

How your doctor is unable to help you

Your doctor can't tell you which treatment you should want or even whether you should want any treatment at all. Those choices depend on you and your own personal values. Once informed of your medical options, you can then exercise your right to accept or refuse the test or treatment.

Your decisions and your doctor

You may want more or less treatment than your doctor believes appropriate for someone in your condition. If your doctor is not comfortable with your instructions and is therefore unable to follow your wishes you may request another doctor. A doctor cannot, however, be forced to give treatment that is medically inappropriate.