You can be kept at the hospital against your will if you’re a danger to yourself or others because of your mental state. People in this situation are sometimes called involuntary patients. You generally have the same rights as other patients, but some special rules apply.
Right to assistance
When getting medical information or services, you can choose someone to be with you.
Right to be released
If you’re kept at the hospital against your will, you must be released as soon as you aren’t a danger to yourself or others anymore. To learn more, read our article on Forced Hospitalization: Three Types.
Right to challenge
If you want to be released from the hospital or if you disagree with a decision made by the hospital, you can write a letter to the Tribunal administratif du Québec (administrative tribunal of Quebec).
You also have a right to challenge any request made to a court to force you to go to the hospital, stay in the hospital or be examined by a psychiatrist.
To learn more, read our article on challenging forced hospitalization.
Right to information
A police officer who brings you to the hospital against your will must explain where and why you are being brought there. The officer must also tell you about your right to contact relatives and a lawyer right away.
As soon as the hospital takes charge of you, or as soon as you seem able to understand the information, the hospital must tell you where and why you’re being hospitalized. It must also tell you about your right to contact relatives and a lawyer right away. The hospital must give you a pamphlet explaining your rights that includes contact information of the local community organization defending mental health rights. It must also give you the phone number of a legal aid office.
The hospital must tell you about the care plan developed for you. If you’re under 14 or are unable to make medical decisions on your own, the hospital gives this information to someone who can make medical decisions for you.
After a judge orders you to stay at the hospital, and after each periodic psychiatric exam, the hospital must give you a document explaining your rights. If you can’t understand the information, the hospital must send a copy of the document to someone who can make medical decisions for you. If this isn’t possible, the hospital tries to send the document to someone who is concerned about you.
- You can’t access information given by people outside of the medical team if it would identify those people.
- A hospital can temporarily refuse to let you see all or part of your record to prevent serious harm to your health, for example, if your mental health is unstable and seeing your record could worsen your condition. The hospital must let you know when you can see the restricted parts of your record.
You can ask a medical professional to explain the information in your medical record. For more information, read our article on medical records.
Right to refuse treatment
In exceptional situations, health care institutions can use force, isolation, medication or other types of restraints to prevent harm to you or someone else. The use of these methods must be minimal and must be noted in your medical record.
Right to confidentiality
Information shared with medical professionals is also confidential. This information can’t be shared without your permission.
But there are some exceptions, such as these:
- Medical professionals who work together can share information with each other when caring for you.
- Medical professionals can share confidential information to prevent harm to a person or group of people in the very near future. They can only share information needed to prevent the harm, and only with the person in danger, their representative (parent or guardian, mandatary, tutor or curator), and people who can rescue them. For example, a doctor or psychologist can contact the police to prevent you from killing yourself or someone else.
Important: If you invite a friend or relative to a doctor’s appointment, you’re giving the friend or relative permission to access the information discussed at the appointment.
Right to communicate
While in the hospital against your will, you can communicate freely and confidentially with the people you choose. But doctors can prevent or restrict some kinds of communication if it is in your interest. For example, a doctor might not let you speak to a certain friend if it might upset you. These restrictions can only be temporary. They must be written down, given to you and put in your medical record.
You always have a right to communicate with your legal representative (parent or guardian, mandatary, tutor or curator), the person who can make medical decisions for you, a lawyer, the Public Curator or the Tribunal administrative du Québec (administrative tribunal of Québec). Doctors can’t restrict this right.
The hospital should set aside a space and a phone for you to use in confidence.
Right to periodic exams
You must be examined after 21 days of being in the hospital, and every three months after that to see if you’re still a danger and must stay at the hospital. The hospital must send the Tribunal administratif du Québec (administrative tribunal of Québec) the results of these psychiatric exams.
If the hospital decides to keep you after the exam, it must notify these people:
- your parent or guardian (tutor) if you’re under 18
- your legal representative (mandatary, tutor or curator), if you have one
Right to ask to change doctors or hospitals
If you’re hospitalized against your will, you can ask to be followed by a different doctor or hospital. Your doctor must sign off on a transfer to a different hospital. But you can’t be transferred to a hospital that doesn’t have the resources to care for you.
Your doctor can also decide to transfer you to another hospital that could better meet your needs. Your agreement is needed, unless the transfer is necessary for your or someone else’s safety.
Right to receive services in English
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.