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Human Rights and Medical Treatment

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 13 Dec 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Medical Treatment Human Rights

Many aspects of medical treatment may raise human rights issues. Under UK human rights law NHS medical establishments and local health authorities are 'public authorities'. This means that they must comply with the duties contained in the Human Rights Act. Therefore, a breach of an individual's human rights by the NHS or a local health authority could give rise to a legal claim under the Human Rights Act.

Human Rights with Relevance to Medical Treatment

Many of the rights contained in the Human Rights Act 1998 could apply to medical treatment. In particular:
  • Article 2 – the right to life;
  • Article 3 – the right not to be subjected to degrading treatment;
  • Article 5 – the right to liberty. This Article specifically provides that an individual may lawfully be deprived of liberty in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases or if they are “of unsound mind”;
  • Article 8 – the right to respect for an individual's private life.

Under Article 14 public authorities must ensure that there is no discrimination in the way that the rights in the Act are applied.

Human Rights and Access to Medication or Treatment

“Postcode lottery“ and “postcode prescribing“ are terms which have been applied to the availability of certain treatments and medications on the NHS. For a treatment to be made widely available on the NHS it must be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) – In England and Wales – or the Scottish Medicines Consortium – in Scotland. If a treatment is not approved it will only be available through the NHS if a patient's local health authority agrees to provide special funding for it.

Applications for this funding are made by a patient's doctor. The criteria applied to applications, and the amount of funding available, may vary between different health authorities. Therefore, a treatment could be provided on the NHS for some patients but not for others. This may raise questions about whether there has been discrimination relating to access to the treatment based on where a patient lives.

Human rights arguments may also be raised in relation to drugs which are deemed to have little positive impact or which are considered to be disproportionately expensive. For example, an expensive drug may be shown to prolong life in terminally ill patients – but only for a matter of weeks. On this basis it may not be approved for availability on the NHS. Patients may argue that, by withholding the treatment, the local health authority has breached their right to life.

Human Rights and Consent to Medical Treatment

Medical professionals have a duty to provide their patients with information about any medical treatment they propose. This enables a patient to give informed consent to the treatment. Generally speaking, a doctor who carries out medical treatment on a patient without that patient's consent is likely to be committing a criminal assault. There are some exceptions to this rule especially in cases where a patient is unable to give valid consent to important treatment. In these circumstances the treatment may still be given if it is in the patient's best interests.

This is a complex area of medicine / law and each case is likely to depend on its own facts. Different rules may also apply to patients who come under the auspices of the Mental Health Act 1983.

Children and Consent to Medical Treatment

In principal children under the age of 18 are not able to give valid consent to medical treatment. However, special provisions apply to children aged 16 or 17 who may be able to give valid consent in respect of some types of treatment. Indeed, the courts have held that some younger children may also be able to give valid consent to certain types of treatment. Consent from younger children will depend on the particular child and the treatment in question. This topic also raises issues regarding confidentiality and a child's right to privacy and to receive treatment without their parents' knowledge.

Where a minor cannot give valid consent, an adult with parental responsibility for the child will generally have to give consent for any treatment to be lawful. There may be cases where the adult does not consent to the treatment and relies on their right to make decisions about the child's welfare.

If medical professionals believe that a particular treatment is in a child's best interests they may apply for a court order so that the treatment can go ahead. The court may weigh the parent's right to make decisions about their child against the benefit to be derived from the treatment. A court may also be required to make this decision if people with parental responsibility for a child disagree about whether or not they should receive a particular treatment.

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I am manager in bank and was going bank to perform my duty but made road accident and was in quoma for two months in hospital i tried alot to find out a better orgnization which will help me but this orgnization seems to be a good one i need rapid response i can not walk and run before i could. My left hand is forceless and my right hand fingers are not working like before it was working i have shared my email and i am sharing my mobile number its +923329559012 to get rapid response. Waiting for your response because i left parapeledgic german centre as it was not clean kindly response atleast on my mobile .
steve - 13-Dec-17 @ 7:04 PM
Is it legal for a doctor to change a patients medication without prior consent or a consultation? Please email me a response
Hank - 9-Dec-17 @ 11:09 AM
My husband passed away in A&E Department 6 November 2015 , following airway obstruction , because he was not referred to an Lymphedema specialist after his cancer surgery 2014 which was removed .The paramedics and as well the A&ae Department Staff did not open his airways , apparently my husband did not want to live , so the health professionals mentioned ? A DNAR was signed against our wishes and informed consent , which my husband and myself are branded in writing as liars .I was phoned by an doctor am 6:15 6 November 2015 , and I was told my husband was unconscious dying , and just had his last breath .When I arrived at the hospital , I saw my husband dead , in a side room .My husband did have a Feeding Peg , which was in situ 2014 theatre put in , while he had his cancer surgery .What I discovered is my husband’s Feeding Peg was cut off the top half , and a sharp object stuck into the Tube .Like a needle .It is not my imagination and I am not hallucinated either , Hospital Staff denies that , but I can see better .Is that a kind of Human right breach and also Euthanasia none voluntary not agreed of the patients and next of kin
Go - 6-Dec-17 @ 8:41 PM
Caitlin - Your Question:
I was 15 when I first told people I thought I had Asperger syndrome, I had all the traits and symptoms and I just wanted an opinion. I was thrown back and forth between my GP, Kams, and step 2 for over a year. When my GP FINALLY put in a referral to one of your childhood development centers for attempted suicide and an suspected autism, I was DENIED. The only reason they gave me was because I am over 16, so I was not classed as a child. But I'm also under 18, so I am not classed as and adult. What am I and why wont you see me? stop ignoring me please, I'm scared I will kill myself before I turn 18 and you stop ignoring me!

Our Response:
Our website is purely for advice and we can't give direct help to people. Can you take a look at Young Minds ? There is a list of helplines that you can call.
AboutHumanRights - 29-Nov-17 @ 11:37 AM
I was 15 when i first told people i thought i had Asperger syndrome, i had all the traits and symptoms and i just wanted an opinion. I was thrown back and forth between my GP, Kams, and step 2 for over a year. When my GP FINALLY put in a referral to one of your childhood development centers for attempted suicide and an suspected autism, i was DENIED. The only reason they gaveme was because i am over 16, so i was not classed as a child. But i'm also under 18, so i am not classed as and adult. What am i and why wont you see me? stop ignoring me please, i'm scared i will kill myself before i turn 18 and you stop ignoring me!
Caitlin - 28-Nov-17 @ 5:13 PM
Tiff - Your Question:
Last night after an attempted suicide I was brought to the hospital by ambulance, my family was meeting me there. Got in and they just started poking me I would ask questions about my treatment, I was ignored. My family arrived they said no visitors. Which really freaked me out so I asked to call my lawyer, my nurse replied "do you have their number" I said no but call my dad and get it off him. And she said ahhh then no. I kept asking what my rights were in there they ignored every question I had. They neglected me when I'd hit the call button and was still ignored left to throw up all over myself finding myself crying "can someone please help me" my nurse finally came in and she said alright stand up I'll change the sheets, she did then left, came back with clean scrubs. Didn't ask to help me clean myself up or anything! I asked to call any of my emergency contacts that request was declined also! Bc it was late, they wouldn't let me talk to anyone! I asked if someone would stay with me since they wouldn't let my family in or let me call them. Brushed it off and no one ever came. it's messed up Bc I have no wittiness to this neglect, she said if I didn't calm down I was going toBe blue pages, which means I would not be able to leave. At this point all the medication I was taking was hitting me, I was paranoid and anxious so I tried to stop myself for asking anything due to getting blue papered. I am home now and all I can think about is how DISGUSTED I was that no one ever explained one thing to me. I was ignored, it was like my life didn't matter to them. And they couldGet away with it Bc it's their words agains mine. I was crying to my nurse please let me call my mom I am so scared idk what's going to happen I'm freaking out she will calm me down. (And she would've too) I don't know what my options are? I want to make sure this behavior doesn't go unnoticed and it doesn't happen to anyone else.

Our Response:
Assuming this was an NHS hospital, you could consider raising this with the Health Ombudsman
AboutHumanRights - 13-Nov-17 @ 12:02 PM
Last night after an attempted suicide I was brought to the hospital by ambulance, my family was meeting me there. Got in and they just started poking me I would ask questions about my treatment, I was ignored. My family arrived they said no visitors. Which really freaked me out so I asked to call my lawyer, my nurse replied "do you have their number" I said no but call my dad and get it off him. And she said ahhh then no. I kept asking what my rights were in there they ignored every question I had. They neglected me when I'd hit the call button and was still ignored left to throw up all over myself finding myself crying "can someone please help me" my nurse finally came in and she said alright stand up I'll change the sheets, she did then left, came back with clean scrubs. Didn't ask to help me clean myself up or anything! I asked to call any of my emergency contacts that request was declined also! Bc it was late, they wouldn't let me talk to anyone! I asked if someone would stay with me since they wouldn't let my family in or let me call them.Brushed it off and no one ever came ... it's messed up Bc I have no wittiness to this neglect, she said if I didn't calm down I was going to Be blue pages, which means I would not be able to leave. At this point all the medication I was taking was hitting me, I was paranoid and anxious so I tried to stop myself for asking anything due to getting blue papered .. I am home now and all I can think about is how DISGUSTED I was that no one ever explained one thing to me. I was ignored, it was like my life didn't matter to them. And they could Get away with it Bc it's their words agains mine . I wascrying to my nurse please let me call my mom I am so scared idk what's going to happen I'm freaking out she will calm me down. (And she would've too)I don't know what my options are? I want to make sure this behavior doesn't go unnoticed and it doesn't happen to anyone else.
Tiff - 10-Nov-17 @ 1:13 PM
Lynne and- Your Question:
My husband was going to have a mri scan but was told he couldn’t have on done because he had a coil in his head has this breached his human rights has he has had them in the past the coil is platelum so it doesn’t effect the mri scan

Our Response:
We can't give individual medical advice sorry. You are entitled to ask for a second opinion.
AboutHumanRights - 23-Oct-17 @ 10:52 AM
I have bone non union fracture ultimate treatment available in pakistan done but no progress has so far been seen 5 surgeries have been performedno i want to go to uk but no have big money but i have enough i think .can anyone tell me what to do .dose human rights help peoples to take treatment in the uk?painful life underway.
Kaka - 22-Oct-17 @ 2:20 PM
My husband was going to have a mri scan but was told he couldn’t have on done because he had a coil in his head has this breached his human rights has he has had them in the past the coil is platelum so it doesn’t effect the mri scan
Lynne and - 19-Oct-17 @ 11:16 AM
happylass - Your Question:
I have been fighting my local health trust for 3 yrs now. I have severe osteoarthritis in both my knees and I struggle to even walk 10 yrds. I have had to give up work and driving and am now reliant on an electric buggy to get anywhere. I struggle to shower below the waist or put on shoes or socks. My husband does all those for me. I am now on disability benefits. I went after arguing for 3 yrs to see a orthopedic surgeon who told me yes your knees are very bad but at 60 you are too young to have them operated on and even at 70 you may not get them done !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I was told if I have no quality of life and the knee pain is keeping me awake at night I could have them done , this is what is happening I cant do a blasted thing for myself anymore and am getting more and more crippled as the weeks go by YET I am too young. What rights do I have if any and where do I go for advice on this. Im on morphine and Tramadol and still im in severe pain , im now getting suicidal with this

Our Response:
If your quality of life is really bad, you may be reconsidered. Unfortunately it might be a case of going back time and again to your GP. If your GP considers your lack of mobility is affecting your state of mind he/she might be able to back you up.
AboutHumanRights - 10-Oct-17 @ 12:09 PM
I have been fighting my local health trust for 3 yrs now. I have severe osteoarthritis in both my knees and i struggle to even walk 10 yrds. i have had to give up work and driving and am now reliant on an electric buggy to get anywhere. i struggle to shower below the waist or put on shoes or socks . My husband does all those for me . I am now on disability benefits . I went after arguing for 3 yrs to see a orthopedic surgeon who told me yes your knees are very bad but at 60 you are too young to have them operated on and even at 70 you may not get them done !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. I was told if i have no quality of life and the knee pain is keeping me awake at night i could have them done , this is what is happening i cant do a blasted thing for myself anymore and am getting more and more crippled as the weeks go by YET i am too young .. What rights do i have if any and where do i go for advice on this . Im on morphine and Tramadol and still im in severe pain , im now getting suicidal with this
happylass - 7-Oct-17 @ 8:54 PM
Aj - Your Question:
Can my doctor refuse me strong medication due to my "young" age if I'm in need of it ?

Our Response:
Yes a doctor usually knows best what medical treatments to prescribe.
AboutHumanRights - 8-Aug-17 @ 2:38 PM
Can my doctor refuse me strong medication due to my "young" age if I'm in need of it ?
Aj - 7-Aug-17 @ 7:07 AM
Dolphin - Your Question:
I went on holiday for two weeks and my usual doctor prescribed my medication for 2 weeks when I came back I ordered my prescription which I have weekly and another doctor has refused my medication because he wants me to collect it daily from the pharmacy can my usual doctor override his decision

Our Response:
This will depend on the policy of your local doctor's practice or NHS primary care trust, so it would be better to contact them and ask.
AboutHumanRights - 2-Aug-17 @ 12:15 PM
I went on holiday for two weeks and my usual doctor prescribed my medication for 2 weeks when I came back I ordered my prescription which I have weekly and another doctor has refused my medication because he wants me to collect it daily from the pharmacy can my usual doctor override his decision
Dolphin - 30-Jul-17 @ 2:14 PM
Type1 - Your Question:
Hi I recently missed an apointment mith my diabetes nurse im type 1 and was busy at work and lost track of time and realised when I finished work ive rang the surgery a few times to book an apointment only to find im getting stuck on hold one day I was on hold for 40 mins during my lunch break so after trying a few days I gave up after 2 months I went to do my perscription online to find my insulin had been removed to which I was confused about as I need that to live when I returned home from work I had recieved a letter from my doctor stating I had to attend an apointment to get it put back on I attended only to be told I need a blood test done before they can put it back on again which ive had and once I phone up and speak with the nurse to have it put back on I feel ive been mistreated and im getting worried as im getting low on medication and if I run out I wont be able to eat and will become seriously unwell and end up in hospital or worse what can I do? I work hard and pay my taxes and shouldnt be denied medicine I need

Our Response:
Make a formal complaint about the difficulties in getting hold of the surgery at times that are convenient to you. If your medicine is being withheld speak to your local NHS Primary Care Trust for further help.
AboutHumanRights - 8-May-17 @ 11:46 AM
Hi i recently missed an apointment mith my diabetes nurse im type 1 and was busy at work and lost track of time and realised when i finished work ive rang the surgery a few times to book an apointment only to find im getting stuck on hold one day i was on hold for 40 mins during my lunch break so after trying a few days i gave up after 2 months i went to do my perscription online to find my insulin had been removed to which i was confused about as i need that to live when i returned home from work i had recieved a letter from my doctor stating i had to attend an apointment to get it put back on i attended only to be told i need a blood test done before they can put it back on again which ive had and once i phone up and speak with the nurse to have it put back on i feel ive been mistreated and im getting worried as im getting low on medication and if i run out i wont be able to eat and will become seriously unwell and end up in hospital or worse what can i do? I work hard and pay my taxes and shouldnt be denied medicine i need
Type1 - 6-May-17 @ 3:33 PM
Can somone please tell me can i bring my husband back home from hospital today
Ruk - 17-Feb-17 @ 10:25 AM
Hi my husband is in hospital under section 3 i have write a letter to the doctors to discharge him but they reject it i am so stressed out they are saying he is dangrouse to himself these are lies he is absoultey fine they are giving him wtong medication i have phone them not to give him he has really bad side effect with them i have phone so many time to speak with the doctors but they are not answering me back is there any way or anyone who can suggest me that can i bring my husband back home i dont want him to be or be treat in hospital can i do this i have 5 childrens i really dont know what to do is this possible if i just go to the hospital todey and bring my husband home i dont want him to stay in hospital
Ruk - 17-Feb-17 @ 10:13 AM
My mum has been prescribed 200mg of morphine sulphate tablets per day for arthritic pain. This is fairly mild she can still do all her housework and get out and about. I feel that since taking this she is not herself. She gets co fused, sweats profusely, cannot follow or hold much conversation and is falling. She has just had surgery because she fell and broke her wrist very badly. She visits GP alone and won't let us go with her. She is 78 years old. How do we address this? She was previously on fentanyl patches but not at this strength and these tablets have not been built up slowly to this dose ,?
Smudge - 28-Dec-16 @ 8:25 AM
RimwulfRandall - Your Question:
I am at a group facility for 4 hours the times a week for mandatory life saving treatment. Around 20 other patients and we learn to treat either each other respect and with basic understand that also includes proper language. But there is this one person who does curse when she doesn't get her way, she is in her right state of mind, and I understand her frustration but her cussing is disrespectful and is not harmless gets me "triggered". I want it to stop ahs I personally believe it's a danger to my state of mind. I either want her to stop or have her removed, she can yell until she's blue in the face but I saw the line at abusive language. What can I do?

Our Response:
You could try making a formal complaint to the organiser of the group facility - perhaps consider putting it in writing.
AboutHumanRights - 16-Dec-16 @ 11:48 AM
I am at a group facility for 4 hours the times a week for mandatory life saving treatment. Around 20 other patients and we learn to treat either each other respect and with basic understand that also includes proper language. But there is this one person who does curse when she doesn't get her way, she is in her right state of mind, and I understand her frustration but her cussing is disrespectful and is not harmless gets me "triggered". I want it to stop ahs I personally believe it's a danger to my state of mind. I either want her to stop or have her removed, she can yell until she's blue in the face but I saw the line at abusive language. What can I do?
RimwulfRandall - 15-Dec-16 @ 2:09 PM
My brother is held on a section 3 he's had his leave taken away because he refusing to take hisNew medication, he's said it gives him headaches. This has been going on for the past 4 months. Can they do this? or should they be offering another treatment? Yes been out side once in 4 months. Yes never hurt anyone however gets agitated because he feels like a prisoner. He has never been in trouble with the police.
Mary - 7-Dec-16 @ 2:02 PM
duck - Your Question:
My mom was admitted to hospital and was put on life support well when she came off of it the hospital allowed her to sign out telling us she was unstable we begged and pleaded with administration to send someone to speak with her so they can see she is not in her right mind and unable to make decisions qnd they refused when we got to hopsital my mom told me she got raped by 4 people while she was on there I clearly knew it wasnt true and knew she was out of it please tell me how I can go about filing a lawsuit for the way they treated her she ended up coded that night when we got her home like 3 hours after leaving hospital we got her to memphis and she passed away few days later please help

Our Response:
You will have to seek profession legal advice for this situation.
AboutHumanRights - 5-Dec-16 @ 12:51 PM
My mom was admitted to hospital and was put on life support well when she came off of it the hospital allowed her to sign out telling us she was unstable we begged and pleaded with administration to send someone to speak with her so they can see she is not in her right mind and unable to make decisions qnd they refused when we got to hopsital my mom told me she got raped by 4 people while she was on there i clearly knew it wasnt true and knew she was out of it please tell me how i can go about filing a lawsuit for the way they treated her she ended up coded that night when we got her home like 3 hours after leaving hospital we got her to memphis and she passed away few days later please help
duck - 2-Dec-16 @ 8:26 AM
Wanting a little advice. My son is severly autistic with severe learning difficulties, behavioural problems, sensory processing disorder and adhd. When I was 3 1/2 mths pregnant I had dental problems and they xrayed my mouth. They ressured me this procedure was fine, but recently I read somewhere that having this procedure could have implications on an unborn child. Could you reassure me that what has happened to my son is just life and not down to the procedure I had.
chucky - 17-Oct-16 @ 6:29 PM
Hi I would like some advise please... I was diagnosed with herpes type 2 about 2 weeks ago. I am being told different things by different Dr. I feel my 2nd out break coming and was advised to go and get some anti virus tablets to prevent a bad out break.As apparently if you catch it early it avoids break out.I've been to my GP today and she has refused me my treatment and said she will refer me and that i dont need it. I have to live with what i have . Well by the time the referral happens I probably will be on my 3rd outbreak so I feel a bit helpless now. I really feel as if this is breaking my human rights. Maybe I'm wrong. But if they do help with the pain and itching why would I be refused it ?
Somehelpplease - 3-Oct-16 @ 7:47 PM
cellochick - Your Question:
I have pernicious anemia. I get b12 injections every 10 weeks and have done for over 13 years. Today I have been told by the nurse that my surgery are forcing everyone to change to 12 weekly injections. Can they do this? O will be fighting this any advice would be very much appreciated.

Our Response:
If it's not detrimental to your health, then I guess it can. You'd be better checking with your local NHS trust.
AboutHumanRights - 9-Sep-16 @ 2:05 PM
I have pernicious anemia. I get b12 injections every 10 weeks and have done for over 13 years. Today I have been told by the nurse that my surgery are forcing everyone to change to 12 weekly injections. Can they do this? O will be fighting this any advice would be very much appreciated.
cellochick - 8-Sep-16 @ 6:22 PM
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