- Cancer Information
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- Cancer care and your rights
- Key questions about your health care rights
Key questions about your health care rights
Patients have certain rights and responsibilities when accessing health care in Australia. Knowing your health care rights and responsibilities – and understanding how you can play an active role in your health care – can help you get the best possible outcomes.
Learn more about:
- What are health care rights?
- Your health care rights
- Why are rights important?
- How are health care rights protected?
- Is discrimination unlawful?
- What are patient responsibilities?
- How does the Australian health care system work?
What are health care rights?
The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights sets out 7 key rights for people receiving health care.
You have a right to access, safety, respect, partnership, information, privacy, and to give feedback. These rights apply to everyone receiving health care in Australia.
Knowing your rights and what you can reasonably expect from your treatment team and health care services will help you to better understand the health system and take an active role in your care.
It’s important that you feel comfortable to ask questions and get the support you need.
Health care that responds to your needs, preferences and values, as well as the needs of your family and carers, is known as person-centred care. This means that your health care providers will respect your care goals, and involve you as an equal partner when planning your treatment and ongoing care. Working in partnership to make joint decisions about your care can lead to better outcomes.
How are health care rights protected?
Everyone who works in a health service is responsible for upholding health care rights. This helps people receive safe, high-quality and person-centred care.
Some rights are legally protected. There are laws covering discrimination, medical treatment, the conduct of health professionals and hospital services, and the privacy of personal information. Health professionals and health care services must comply with these laws.
Other health care rights reflect fair and reasonable expectations for care. For example, you may want a second opinion if you’re unsure about the treatment a doctor has recommended. It is reasonable to expect that your doctor will refer you to another specialist and share your test results with that person. Many doctors openly encourage second opinions and help their patients to obtain them. However, there is no law that says they have to. If your doctor is not helpful in seeking a second opinion, you can find one in other ways.
Is discrimination unlawful?
In Australia, it is generally unlawful for health services to discriminate on the basis of age, disability, race, sex, intersex status, gender identity and sexual orientation.
Podcast: Coping with a cancer diagnosis
Prof Sarah Lewis, Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney, NSW; Kevin Bloom, Senior Social Worker, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Danielle Curnoe, Consumer; Alana Fitzgibbon, Clinical Nurse Consultant – Gastro-Intestinal Cancers, Cancer Services, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Hall & Wilcox (law firm); Johanna Jordaan, Consumer; Dr Deme Karikios, Medical Oncologist, Nepean Cancer and Wellness Centre, Nepean Hospital, NSW; Melissa Lawrie, Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse, Cancer Services, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Jacqueline Lesage, Consumer Reviewer, Cancer Voices NSW; McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Louise Pellerade, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Andrew Potter, Consumer; Siân Slade, PhD Candidate, Nossal Institute for Global Health and Non-Executive Director (health, disability sectors), VIC; Paula Watt, Clinical Psychologist, WOMEN Centre, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.