All about your healthcare rights

Health consumers have rights in Australia. You should know what these are. You can take action if you feel they've been denied, this can be in the form of formal complaints or just talking to your health professional. Consent and treatment are particularly important places that these rights operate.

This could be for you if:

  • You want to know about your rights as a health consumer
  • You want to know how age affects your rights
  • You want to know how to make a complaint about a doctor or health provider
  • You want to know about your rights regarding treatment and consent
young man in grey pants and white shirt wearing a lumberjack hat

Am I a health consumer?

Probably. If you see any doctors, counsellors or other health workers, you're a health consumer, and you have certain legal rights. They are:

  • To see qualified people and get good care
  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • To have your health details kept confidential, unless they're required by law to pass something on. Find out more about confidentiality.
  • To not be abused, mentally or physically or discriminated against because of your age, gender, race, family status, sexual orientation or disability
  • Services that recognise and work with cultural, religious, social and ethnic needs, values and beliefs
  • Free emergency treatment at hospitals if you're an Australian citizen
  • You can bring someone you trust to support you at appointments
  • Info on what services are available

What do I do if they're denied?

If you feel like your rights as a health consumer have been denied, you should:

  • Talk to the health worker, and tell them you're unhappy
  • Talk to the Health Care Complaints Commission in your state
  • Make a complaint if you want
  • Look for another doctor or service provider

Complaints

You can make a complaint if you've had your rights denied or got bad care. If you can't sort it out with the provider themselves, talk to a patient representative or the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) in your state. Patient Support Officers at the HCCC can help you sort things out. You can ask a friend or family member to help you too.

Treatment

Doctors or hospitals should talk to you about treatments that you might have, and the risks they carry. Make sure you've got and understand the information before making a decision about what treatment you want.

Bring someone you trust along if you need help understanding what doctors or health workers are saying. Ask questions about things you don't understand, and get info to take away with you, or the names of good websites to learn about health.

Consent

If you can understand and make your own decisions about your health care, you’re doing what's called “giving consent”.

Normally you need to give consent for medical treatment to be given to you. Your parents sometimes have to give consent for you if you're under fourteen. After fourteen, you can seek out and agree to medical treatment on your own, or jointly with your parents. Read the 'Age and Confidentiality' fact sheet for more info.

You should be at the centre of decisions about your health – it's yours, after all. If you want, your parents can stay with you during doctors' visits, or during minor operations. If you want them there, there has to be a good medical or legal reason for them to be kept out, and you have to be told about it.

Some health decisions are huge, with daunting consequences. You should take all the time you need to make up your mind about a treatment, and talk to whoever you like to get advice. Getting a second opinion from another doctor, or talking further with one you're already dealing with already, can help too.

What can I do now?

  • Learn more about confidentiality and what it means for you.
  • Find services in your local area if you think your rights have been breached.
  • Get tips on how to communicate your needs better.
Last reviewed: 12 August, 2015
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