When you use a health or disability service in New Zealand, you have the protection of a Code of Rights.
Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers' Rights
The Code of Rights sets out your rights as a user of health and disability services and the duties of providers of those services. There are 10 rights.
Right 1: The right to be treated with respect
This includes the right to have your privacy respected and to be provided with services that take into account the needs, values and beliefs of your cultural, religious, social and ethnic group.
Right 2: The right to freedom from discrimination, coercion, harassment and exploitation
This includes the right to be free from sexual, financial or any other type of exploitation.
Right 3: The right to dignity and independence
You have the right to be treated with dignity and independence.
Right 4: The right to services of an appropriate standard
Some examples of this right include the right to:
- have services provided with reasonable care and skill
- have services provided that comply with legal, professional, ethical and other relevant standards
- have services provided in a manner consistent with your needs
- have services provided in a manner that minimises the potential harm to you and that optimises the quality of your life.
- co-operation among providers to ensure quality and continuity of services.
Right 5: The right to effective communication
You have the right to effective communication in a form, language and manner that enables you to understand the information provided. Where necessary and reasonably practicable, this includes the right to a competent interpreter.
You also have the right to an environment that enables both you and your health provider to communicate openly, honestly and effectively.
Right 6: The right to be fully informed
You have the right to the information that a reasonable health consumer in your circumstances would expect to receive, including:
- an explanation of your condition
- an explanation of the options available, including an assessment of the expected risks, side effects, benefits and costs of each option
- advice of the estimated time within which the services will be provided
- notification of any proposed participation in teaching or research, including whether the research requires and has received ethical approval
- any other information required by legal, professional, ethical and other relevant standards
- the results of tests
- the results of procedures.
This means that before making a choice or giving consent, you have the right to the information that a reasonable consumer in your circumstances needs to make an informed choice or give informed consent.
You also have the right to honest and accurate answers to questions relating to services, including questions about:
- the identity and qualifications of the provider
- the recommendation of the provider
- how to obtain an opinion from another provider
- the results of research.
You also have the right to receive, on request, a written summary of the information provided.
Right 7: The right to make an informed choice and give informed consent
This right covers a lot of situations. Services may be provided to you only if you make an informed choice and give informed consent. There are some limitations to this right, such as if you have diminished competence to give consent. In that case, the provider must still take reasonable steps to find out your view and act in your best interests. This may involve taking into account the views of other people who are interested in your welfare.
This right also covers your right to have an advance directive – a living will that gives power of attorney to someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to.
You should also be informed in writing if any procedure that requires your consent will involve the following:
- participation in any research
- an experimental procedure
- being under general anaesthetic
- a significant risk of adverse effects on you.
You have the right to refuse services and to withdraw consent to services. You also have the right to express a preference as to who will provide services and have that preference met where practicable.
Further, you have the right to make a decision about the return or disposal of any body parts or bodily substances removed or obtained in the course of a healthcare procedure. No body part or bodily substance may be kept or used otherwise than:
- with your informed consent, or
- for the purposes of research that has received the approval of an ethics committee, or
- to assure or improve the quality of services.
Right 8: The right to support
You have the right to have one or more support people of your choice present, except where safety may be compromised or another consumer's rights may be unreasonably infringed.
Right 9: Rights in respect of teaching or research
The rights in this Code extend to when you are taking part in teaching or research.
Right 10: The right to complain
You have the right to complain about a provider in any form that is appropriate to you. The provider has obligations to deal with any complaint in a way that facilitates a fair, simple, speedy and efficient resolution. This includes acknowledging your complaint within 5 days and keeping you informed of progress at least once a month.
There are more details about the Code of Rights on the Health & Disability Commission website.
Do you wish to make a complaint?
The Health and Disability Commissioner helps ensure your rights are upheld and complaints are taken care of.
Read more about making a complaint.