- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer care and your rights
- Patient rights and responsibilities
- Are rights legally enforceable?
Are rights legally enforceable?
Some rights are legally enforceable, which means that laws exist to protect them. There are laws covering discrimination, medical treatment, the conduct of health professionals and the privacy of personal information.
These laws exist to ensure people have the right to safe and competent health care, the right to be free from unlawful discrimination, the right to refuse treatment, and the right to privacy. Health professionals and the health care system have a duty to follow these laws.
While some of the rights set out in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights may not be legally enforceable, they do reflect fair and reasonable expectations. For example, you may want a second opinion if you’re unsure about the treatment a doctor has recommended. This means seeing another specialist for their view about your diagnosis and treatment. It is fair and 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, some doctors don’t, and there is no law that says they have to. Either way, you have a right to ask for a second opinion.
If your doctor is not helpful, you can find a second opinion in other ways.
Toni Ashmore, Cancer and Ambulatory Services, Canberra Health Services, ACT; Baker McKenzie, Pro Bono Legal Adviser, NSW; Marion Bamblett, Acting Nurse Unit Manager, Cancer Centre, South Metropolitan Health Service, Fiona Stanley Hospital, WA; David Briggs, Consumer; Naomi Catchpole, Social Worker, Metro South Health, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Tarishi Desai, Legal Research Officer, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Kathryn Dwan, Manager, Policy and Research, Health Care Consumers Association, ACT; Hayley Jones, Manager, Treatment and Supportive Care, McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer, VIC; Victoria Lear, Cancer Care Coordinator, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Michelle Smerdon, National Pro Bono Manager, Cancer Council NSW.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono services, financial and legal assistance, and no interest loans
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment