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Your rights and responsibilities

The Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights describes how patients of health services can advocate for themselves. In some situations, carers (paid and unpaid) can also be involved in discussions about treatment options and care.

If someone is at immediate risk, call 000 or visit your nearest hospital.

If someone is at immediate risk, call 000 or visit your nearest hospital.

Witnessing someone's suicide attempt, or supporting them afterwards, can be extremely distressing.

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Patient rights
and carer rights

In the health system, patient rights and carer rights are not the same. You might feel as though the ultimate responsibility for the person you care about falls to you, but your access to the information you need to ensure their ongoing safety and access to care is limited.

"We are our child’s best advocate and their strongest supporter. Tell us what to do and support us to do it. Help us keep our children out of in-patient care."

A woman who cares for her adult child

Conversations about rights are not just about privacy and confidentiality, they should also be about you feeling included and acknowledged. This can have an impact on your own wellbeing when you are the primary support person. Please contact the SANE Help Centre if these conversations, or the prospect of them, are having an adverse impact on you.

Health professionals have to follow strict guidelines on patient confidentiality. The person you are caring for may need to give consent for some information to be shared with you. Otherwise, health professionals may only be able to share general information. This can cause difficulties, especially if you feel you need that information to provide support.

You can ask for information to be shared with you. The health professional will then ask the person you care about for their consent. Confidentiality can only be breached if there is a risk to the person or others, and the information is required to keep people safe.

There is more information on individual state protocols around confidentiality, rights and responsibilities in their Mental Health Acts. Click on your state below to find out more.

Talking about rights
and responsibilities

Talking to the person you are caring for about their treatment and their needs can be complicated.

It's tempting to avoid the topic for fear of triggering a response, or because you don’t know what to say. Or you may want more information, but the person you care about doesn’t consent to share, so their health professionals have to observe confidentiality.

Other factors that can affect these conversations include age, how close you feel to them, and the sudden shift in your relationship. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed for all of these reasons, and likely many more.

"You are caught between confidentiality and trust."

A woman who cares for her adult child

To approach conversations about patient rights and your access to information:

  • Find a good time to have difficult conversations. You might prepare by making some notes about issues you would like to discuss and blocking out time without interruptions.
  • Plan ahead for when you are unable to provide care. Talk about this with the person and health professionals. Consider what legal and financial steps may be needed to ensure care continues.

Your rights
as a carer

It is also important to understand your rights, particularly if you are unhappy with the care being provided to the person you are supporting. Follow the links for more information on:

  • your legal rights as a carer
  • knowing how to make a healthcare complaint — the APRHA site lists organisations in your state or territory if you wish to make a complaint about a practitioner or a health service
  • advocating for the needs of carers more broadly.