Care, a small four letter word that comes with many big meanings. You will find that everyone claims to care for someone or something. We care for people and for causes. We even care for our houses and vehicles. We can choose to care for others just as we can choose who cares for us. Sometimes the meaning of care has been lost in the legalities of care.
Care as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, can be both a noun and a verb with various definitions. Care can mean doing something with watchful attention, making an effort to do something correctly, safely or without causing damage. It can be defined by emotion such as something that causes you to feel worried or unhappy. It can be mundane like to deal with or do something that requires attention. I take care of the groceries in my home and we take care of our vehicle to keep it in good running order. We care about people by being interested, concerned, feeling affection and by wanting to help or protect them.
In terms of health-care we understand that to mean the prevention or treatment of illness by doctors, dentists, psychologists and so on. When we talk about primary care we expect medical care from a doctor, who sees a patient first and provides basic treatment or decides that the patient should see another doctor. The term care is used to describe many aspects of our life such as holistic care, therapeutic care, intensive care even car care.
To understand what a duty of care is under the law we have to have a basic understanding about the different types of law. Tort, which is a from the Latin tortum, meaning “wrong, injustice”, is one type of law. It is different from criminal or contractual law. Duty of care falls under torte law. It is an obligation that falls on an individual to adhere to a standard of reasonable care while doing things that could potentially harm others. This can cover anything from sports to medicine. It applies to both the person giving care and the person receiving care. In Canada the law respects the absolute right of all competent persons to decide what medical treatment they will accept or refuse.
There are many factors when considering care in legal terms. What are the standards of reasonable conduct? Has caution been exercised? Have all aspects of the actions been considered when providing care and are they reasonable given the circumstances? The opposite of care would be negligence. In circumstances in which we are caring for another person it is up to us to be attentive and vigilant in our actions so as not to be negligent. When someone accepts care from us, they should have faith, trust and confidence in our abilities. When we care for someone it should be mainly for their benefit.
There are many different areas that care is exercised in the governmental system. One example is foster care. When a child is brought into the care of the ministry it is normally understood that the child’s care was not being met by the parents. However we know that in this area there are many cases where children were brought into care that caused more harm than good such as the 60’s sweep and the residential school system. There are children that have been harmed in the care of the ministry. It has many issues that are now being evaluated all across Canada. Care in the institutional sense does not always mean it is in the best interest of the person.
Providing child care is another example of what kind of care can be offered. I was a child care provider for over 20 years. The parents made the choice to have me care for their children. They had the basic understanding in what I provided as well entrusted me with the welfare of their children. They had trust in what I said I could do and confidence in my abilities. Child care is something that has been around for as long as children have been needed to be cared for. Depending on where you live there may be different policy’s in place concerning who may provide care. More and more child care is being regulated by the government, in all areas from basic babysitting to daycare centres and schools. Parents can still choose who they want and where they decide to have their children cared for.
The most basic but most important type of care is the care parents have for their own children. Mothers provide care everyday for their children. They make decisions on what will be best for their family. Everyone makes different decisions based on their beliefs, experiences and family history. Carson McCullers said “The closest thing to being cared for is to care for someone else.” Care is a very important part to who we are as human’s. Sometimes the legal aspect can overshadow the spiritual or mental aspect. Caring for someone can also be equated with loving others. When someone feels cared for they feel secure and can be confident in their own abilities.
Care is often talked about in the context of rights, responsibility’s and choice. In the more general term we seek care from many different care providers. Often for physical care we seek help from doctors, naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other healing modalities. Some people seek care for mental or spiritual concerns from counsellors, psychiatrists, ministers or other spiritual healers. In Canada these choices are part of our basic human rights.
One of the questions concerning care is who can provide care to a woman during her pregnancy, labour and post-partum. At what point during pregnancy does a woman lose her right to choose her care-providers? It is here that the term care runs into the term choice. Does a woman have the right to decide who she can choose to care for herself and baby during her pregnancy and through to her post partum period? Specifically, in Saskatchewan, what are a woman’s options, choices and rights during this time?
Shouldn’t a woman, who is deemed a competent adult, be able to make her own reasonable decisions regarding her care? Should she be able to make informed decisions based on the options available to her? Here again we run into a problem, a woman’s basic right is to birth where and how she decides. At this moment, based on legislation, she can give birth by herself but not with people she may ask to be with her. When a woman looks at what her options are it may only seem like she can choose between an obstetrician or a government sanctioned midwife. She may look closer and realize that even with these two options she may not make decisions she deems best for herself and her baby. There are many rules within these two options that are out of her control(such as the case of a twin, vbac or breech pregnancy.) Even though she may feel the need to have ‘alternative’ care such as chiropractic treatment or even a massage to relieve the aches of pregnancy; according to the wording of the midwifery act, these practitioners cannot help her as they are going against the intention worded there. The act is worded in such a fashion, that if someone who offers care to a pregnant woman and is not a member of the midwifery association they are in direct violation of the policy and liable for prosecution. As this act is fairly new it is open to scrutiny and inquiry if the policies stated are really in the best interest of women, specifically pregnant women.
This article has hopefully got you curious as to what care really means in the broader sense of who we choose to care for us and perhaps has you thinking “maybe I should care about this”.
Following is the section of the act that is currently up for a constitutional challenge, which is being brought forward to see if it violates the basic rights of women in regards to pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Subsection 2 states: “No person shall engage in the business or practice of performing any of the authorized practices described in subsection (1) [This includes “providing care to a woman and her healthy baby during a normal pregnancy, labour and post-partum period”] with respect to another individual unless:
(a) the person is a member who is authorized by his or her licence to perform that practice;
(b) the person is authorized pursuant to another Act to perform that practice; or
(c) the activity is one of daily living and is performed by the individual or by a person on the individual’s behalf.”
You can read the whole act here.
“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options. You can climb it and cross to the other side.
You can go around it.
You can dig under it.
You can fly over it.
You can blow it up.
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.
You can turn around and go back the way you came.
Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.” ― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
–“Who Cares?” written by Winona Morland