Rights and the Law
Patients’ rights fall into two main areas:
- the right to accept or refuse treatment on the basis of knowing and understanding what is involved in the treatment and any alternatives which are available; and
- the right to care and competence on the part of the health professionals involved in treatment.
A patient who understands these rights can insist on them. Patients who feel that their rights have been infringed can take steps to protect those rights.
Criminal and Civil Legislation
Laws that impact on healthcare professionals include criminal and civil law. Criminal law impacts could arise in situations such as claims of assault, sexual assault, homicide, or being party to an assisted suicide. Assault is the most common of these. Abortion laws changed in the early 2000s so that medical professionals who follow the necessary procedures are protected from prosecution for abortion, although abortion as a crime continues to exist under the Tasmanian Criminal Code if it is performed by someone not a medical practitioner. The Guardianship and Administration Act 1995 (Tas) also makes clear that certain of its provisions prevail over the Criminal Code.
Civil law issues, which are now partially covered by the Civil Liability Act 2002 (Tas), where a practitioner could be sued arise in situations where registered medical practitioners have a duty to warn of a risk associated with a procedure. Failure to do so can be professional negligence. Other aspects of civil law that may arise are in circumstances such as battery or trespass, where a medical professional has undertaken a procedure without the necessary consent of the patient.
Where the health professional has any doubt or concern about a practice in the health field and its relationship with the law they should contact:
- the relevant organisation, union or Australian Nurses Federation representative;
- a solicitor practising in the relevant area of the law through the Legal Aid Commission or a community legal centre.
From 1 July 2010, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law) came into effect in participating states and territories. In Tasmania, this act is the Health Practitioners Regulation National Law (Tasmania) Act 2010. Other relevant legislation in Tasmania includes the Health Complaints Act 1995 (Tas), and the Health Practitioners Tribunal Act 2010 (Tas).
A complaints framework is in place, through these Acts, so that if a person feels that their complaint has not been adequately addressed by a health care provider, they have other sources through which to deal with an issue within the health care system.
Page last updated 28/02/2022