As a patient, you have the right to all your medical records/scans, refuse treatment, and to be treated respectfully, regardless of your race or sexual orientation. If you experience any concerns regarding your treatment, then you may be able to sue under medical negligence laws.
Rights in Australia
Fortunately, medical treatment in Australia is among the best in the world. Regardless of whether you are receiving private or public health care, The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights states seven key rights of patients. The rights are mostly self-explanatory, however, I have expanded on the ones that may not be as straightforward.
- Communication – You have the right to be informed of treatment options and costs in an honest and open way
- Comment – You have the right to complain or compliment on any services you are receiving
- Participation – Your say is important, and you can be involved in the decision-making process towards your care
NSW Health has written a guideline, named Your Health Rights and Responsibilities that expands on these rights. This guideline is more specific and addresses additional concerns, such as access to surgery, ambulance services, and right to a second opinion.
Medical information is secure between you and your doctor/specialist/health team. However, there are some conditions where your medical information must be disclosed. This includes:
- Notifying the public of an infectious disease
- Notifying suspected abuse
- Finding a missing person
- When there is a court order requesting medical information that may assist in a case
Can I Leave the hospital?
A hospital can not force you to stay, and the formal way of leaving a hospital is to be discharged. However, if you choose to leave without being properly discharged, the hospital and medical team are not liable if you experience any health issues that occur after your departure.
The only circumstance where you are forced to stay in a hospital is if there is a court order against you. This occurs when your freedom is considered a danger towards society. This is often the case for patients in a psychiatric hospital under the NSW Mental Health Act.
Grounds to Sue a Doctor
Doctors aren’t expected to be perfect. When actioning on a misdiagnosis, you can only sue if the doctor did not meet the Australian Medical Standards. In other words, you have to prove that another doctor would have properly diagnosed you after seeing the relevant medical testings.
These cases can be a bit tricky because you have to prove that if you had been diagnosed earlier, a different outcome would have occurred. Previous cases have often involved a late diagnosis of cancer, heart attack or a disease. A recent case in 2018, involved the death of a woman due to a heart attack. Her family was able to claim compensation because the lawyers obtained evidence from medical specialists. They confirmed that if her symptoms had been addressed earlier, treatment would have been available and her death may not have happened.
Know Your Rights
In a busy hospital setting, it’s easy to let things slide. However, if you are mistreated, denied certain requests or experience harm/injury, it is likely your rights have been breached. We recommend speaking to one of our Medical Negligence Lawyers.
It’s also important to note that not all rights are legally enforceable. If you experience any unsatisfactory service in health care, you can contact the NSW Health Care Complaint Commission. They will follow up on the situation, and this is a good alternative to pursuing a lawsuit that may be lengthly and costly.
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