I decided to stray from my usual themes of previous articles for those of you to enjoy and hopefully learn something from.
However, today I wanted to expand on a topic that many people are somewhat confused about and may know very little about. Some of the impetus of this article stems from the fact that I am frequently asked if I am a “real doctor”…or, more importantly the title I have and use is completely ignored by others who either refuse to acknowledge it or don’t uderstand it.
I think, for the sake of clarity, I am finally going to lay this poorly understood isue to rest.
I can safely speak for the registered health care providers in Ontario Canada, that there are only five designated health care professionas whom from a legal prespective, can use the term doctor and the prefix Dr. before their respective names. (Only five)
The title “Doctor” is restricted in Ontario, by the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) which states that, with the exception of chiropractors, optometrists, physicians, psychologists (with a PhD.) and dentists, no other health care provider has an entitlement.
This quote is taken directly from the RHPA (1991) which directly relates to other health professions outside of the five professions mentioned above “no person shall use the title Doctor, a variation or abbreviation or an equivalent in another language, in the course of providing or offering to provide, in Ontario, health care to individuals.”
Although this is the law in Ontario and with regard to the Chiropractic profession, in all other justictions in Canada…most people, lay or otherwise do not understand this.
Why are these five professions allowed to call themselves doctors legally? The answer lies in the controlled acts they are allowed to perform as part of their respective professions. Although the controlled acts of these five health care professions are different based upon their scope of practice and the law…they all have one thing in common.
The right and legal obligation to diagnose.
This is where the confusion begins with the Chiropractic profession. In our case, chiropractors are both doctors and therapists…we have a legal requirement to diagnose a condition and prescribe the appropriate treatment as we see fit. Here is my main issue with this.
Chiropractors are much more known for being therapists than doctors…and that is our fault…period!
In my case, I am much more concerned with being an excellent doctor and I place that responsibility beyond therapeutic intervention in every case. In my opinion, if we concerned ourselves with this much more than is currently done…perhaps the confusion would dissipate somewhat. When we are educated, we spend a great deal of time learing how to be a very good doctor. We learn diagnostics, radiology, hematology, orthopedics, neurology, rehabilitation and yes treatment options. When we graduate, we tend to concentrate ourselves on getting patients treated…more patients…more treatments….making money.
This does not translate to better care!
Being a doctor is a privilege and should be equally shared, acknowleged and respected by everyone. It carries with it a great deal of ethical, regulatory and legal responsibilities which most people will never understand. That’s ok…it’s my responsibility to know this and understand the difference. In my case…it’s the law.
So, it you are a health care provider or lay person, the right to refer to yourself as a doctor is a legal entitlement legislated by law in this (and other) provinces and territories in Canada….if you qualify.
As far as professional decorum is concerned, this title should be extended to those who can legally use it and not to others. Those who have this title have earned the right and have the legislative entitlement.
Those of you who make the conscience choice to ignore the law in a professional context should understand that this is very disrespectful. Take it from me…it’s not appreciated.
Although I am not insistent upon being called a doctor…I also recongnize when my professional title is intentionally ignored by other health providers who should know better. The lay community is given a pass here.
Incidentally, health care providers in Ontario who are allowed to use the title doctor can only do so if they are licensed and regulated in Ontario. This follows in other provincial juristictions.
Ok….mystery solved right?
I would also just like to add that if you don’t agree with the RHPA of Ontario or think it is unfair…you can lobby your MPP to have the act amended. Good luck.
Until the next time.
The Vitality Project.
Dr. Kevin McLaughlin