- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer care and your rights
- Patient rights and responsibilities
- What are patient responsibilities?
What are patient responsibilities?
To be effective, health care needs to be a two-way street. If you expect your health care providers to behave in a certain way – for example, to communicate openly – it helps to behave the same way in return. Your hospital or treatment centre might give you information about your responsibilities covering the following three areas.
Learn more about:
These responsibilities relate to practical issues, including:
- treating staff and other patients with courtesy, dignity and respect
- being on time for appointments or letting the health service know if you are unable to attend an appointment
- following any policies about visiting hours, using mobile phones, smoke-free areas, etc.
A key responsibility is to make sure your treatment team has all the information they need to offer the best treatment for you. Be up-front and provide accurate details about your health. Tell your treatment team if:
- you have a question or problem – it’s important that you talk about issues you don’t understand or that are troubling you so your team can help
- there are factors in your life that might affect treatment decisions – for example, if you live alone, if you care for an elderly relative or a young family, or if you work or study
- you have side effects or pain – your team may be able to adjust the treatment or offer you medicine to relieve side effects
- you’re seeing more than one doctor or another health professional for any part of your care – this includes complementary or alternative therapy practitioners
- you decide not to follow their advice – for example, by not taking the medicine they prescribe
- you are taking any other medicines – this includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs, complementary and alternative medicines, and bush medicines. Tell your treatment team even if you think the medicine is harmless. Some medicines interact with cancer drugs, causing side effects or reducing the effectiveness of the cancer treatment, and this can be harmful.
Your doctor recommends treatment based on your initial test results and your overall health. Depending on how you respond to the treatment you’ve agreed upon, your doctor may have to reassess the original treatment plan. It’s important to be flexible and to accept that your treatment may change. If changes occur, you still have the right to be involved in making decisions about a new treatment plan.
It’s common to have to wait for tests and treatment in public hospitals. The length of time depends on many factors, including the type of cancer you have, its stage, the treatment you are having, and the hospital’s schedule. Hospitals aim to treat people in turn but without waiting for periods of time that would harm treatment outcomes. Waiting for treatment can be stressful – if you are anxious or concerned speak to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
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