Daily Archives: February 20, 2014


How is patient care a human rights issue?

What is patient care?

Patient care refers to the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of physical and mental well-being through services offered by health professionals.1 Patient care consists of services rendered by health professionals (or non-professionals under their supervision) for the benefit of patients.2 A patient is a user of health care services whether he or she is healthy or sick.3

What are the issues and how are they human rights issues?

Patients are entitled to the full range of human rights. Health care providers must respect each patient’s dignity and autonomy, right to participate in making health care decisions, right to informed consent, right to refuse medical treatment, and right to confidentiality and privacy. The attention, treatment, and care that each health care provider gives to a patient must respect the human rights of every one of his or her patients.

The human rights-based approach to patient care draws from standards contained in the international human rights framework, which are often mirrored in regional treaties and national constitutions. It differs from patients’ rights, which codify particular rights that are relevant only to patients. Human rights standards apply to all stakeholders in the delivery of health care—including both patients and care providers.

A human rights-based approach seeks, above all, to uphold the inherent human dignity of all actors in the care provider-patient relationship. This relationship can be a complex one, especially when coupled with health care delivery. For example, as medicine becomes ever more advanced, providers and patients must work together to make diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.4 Financial and quality issues are always present in health care delivery and can lead to inequality and discrimination.5 Greater understanding is needed of the social determinants of health that straddle the lines between traditional medicine and a broader concept of health, as well as of the interdependence of the right to health and the realization of all human rights.6 A human rights-based approach uses the human rights framework to analyze these elements of patient care, among others.

Below are some common human rights issues that arise in patient care settings. This list is not comprehensive. The list alternates between highlighting issue areas and highlighting marginalized groups whose human rights are frequently violated in the health care setting.

Right to information

Patients are often unaware of their rights, including the right to information on their condition and the right to access their medical records. In a study conducted at four hospitals in Lithuania, 85% of the staff and 56% of the patients surveyed had heard of or read about patients’ rights laws.7 Moreover, only 50% of professionals and 69% of patients thought it was necessary for patients to have information about diagnosis, treatment results, and alternative modes of treatment.8 Another study in Macedonia found that 82% of respondents stated that there are patient rights, but 56% did not know what their rights were.9

Patients have the right to information about their health status, treatment options and reasonable alternatives, and the likely benefits and risks of proposed treatment and non-treatment. Patients also have the right to access their medical chart and medical history.

Right to privacy and confidentiality

Patients have the right to have their health information and data kept confidential. According to Gostin et al., “Health data may include not only a patient’s sensitive health status, but also those facts or circumstances that the patient reveals to [health care workers] as part of seeking medical treatment.”10 The “right to privacy and confidentiality must be applied sensitively, with respect for different cultural, social, and religious traditions.”11

For certain vulnerable groups, the right to privacy and confidentiality is an essential aspect of obtaining health care. For example, privacy and confidentiality are crucial to realizing sexual and reproductive rights for women and adolescents.12 In General Comment 14 on the right to health, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that “[t]he realization of the right to health of adolescents is dependent on the development of youth-friendly health care, which respects confidentiality and privacy and includes appropriate sexual and reproductive health services.”13

Privacy and confidentiality are also crucial for patients seeking diagnosis and treatment of illnesses with which stigma is attached, such as HIV/AIDS and mental illness. Depending on the type of care an individual is seeking, some health care centers may only allow specific providers to access the patient’s health information. For example, a nurse who is vaccinating a patient may not access that individual’s private mental health records because the information is not relevant to the treatment being provided at that current moment.

The right to confidentiality of health information should not interfere with the right to access of private health information. While a holder of private health information should be prohibited from sharing that information with anyone who is not essential to providing health care to the individual, the holder must provide the individual access to their private health information upon the individual’s request. Patients have the right to access their own health information, to be able to control how the information is shared with them (for example, being able to indicate to where mail or phone calls are directed), and to be able to authorize the disclosure of information when desired. The right to confidentiality of private health information, as well as the right to accessibility of private health information, should be upheld and not compromised in respecting the rights of the patient.

Right to informed consent to treatment

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, defines informed consent as the following:

Informed consent is not mere acceptance of a medical intervention, but a voluntary and sufficiently informed decision, protecting the right of the patient to be involved in medical decision-making, and assigning associated duties and obligations to health-care providers. Its ethical and legal normative justifications stem from its promotion of patient autonomy, self-determination, bodily integrity and well-being.14 

The right to informed consent is central to the right to health. Issues that arise concern the competency or legal capacity of the patient to consent, respect for personal autonomy, the sufficiency and completeness of information, and circumstances compelling limits on the need for informed consent.

The complexity of informed consent is mirrored by patients’ lack of understanding of its meaning and importance. For example, in a 2006 study of 732 European surgical patients in obstetrics and gynecology during a six-month period, about 46% believed that the primary function of the written consent form was to protect the hospital, and 68% thought that the form allowed doctors to take control, while only 41% believed consent forms expressed their own wishes for treatment.15

Derogations, or departures, from the right to informed consent are necessary at times, but the question of when derogations may be permitted is a complicated one. When a patient is unconscious, medical providers must seek consent from a legally entitled representative. However, if there is an emergency situation where the patient’s life is in danger, medical providers may presume that consent is given. Issues of informed consent also arise from public health policies that require compulsory testing, compulsory vaccinations, or mandated quarantine during epidemics. Procedural safeguards are crucial to derogations from informed consent, to ensure that proper circumstances are met and to provide a means to challenge the departure from the law. Some groups are particularly vulnerable to violations of the right to informed consent. The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health brought attention to children, elderly persons, women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, persons living with HIV/AIDS, persons deprived of liberty, sex workers, and persons who use drugs.16

The Inter-American Court points out the issues surrounding free and voluntary consent when it comes to women’s sexual and reproductive rights.17 Access to information on sexual and reproductive health is crucial for women to make free and informed decisions. According to the Inter-American system, access to information on sexual and reproductive health “involves a series of rights such as the right to freedom of expression, to personal integrity, to the protection of the family, to privacy, and to be free from violence and discrimination.”18

There is also particular concern and confusion regarding the right to informed consent for persons with disabilities or mental health illness, two groups whose rights are frequently violated. Treatment decisions are often based on inappropriate factors such as ignorance or stigma surrounding disabilities, and indifference or expediency from staff. The Special Rapporteur on the right to health writes, “[These inappropriate considerations are] inherently incompatible with the right to health, [and] the prohibition of discrimination on the ground of disability … In these circumstances, it is especially important that the procedural safeguards protecting the right to informed consent are both watertight and strictly applied.”19 For more detailed information on disability and health, please see Chapter 9.

Persons unable to provide informed consent

Patients may be deemed legally incompetent to make decisions on their own behalf, including providing informed consent to treatment. Patients who are declared legally incompetent can include unconscious patients; minors; patients experiencing confusion or other altered mental states (this includes the elderly); those under the influence of sedatives or other drugs that affect alertness and cognition; and on occasion, persons with disabilities, depending upon their perceived impairment.20

Many countries have a system in which a guardian or representative is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the legally incompetent individual. Depending on the jurisdiction and circumstances, health providers might also have the authority to commit a person involuntarily to a health care facility. Involuntary commitment is generally reserved for severe cases where the person is in immediate danger of harming him/herself or others.

There are frequent issues with guardianship and involuntary commitment because these processes involve denying an individual their autonomy to make decisions. It is crucial that the system be as formal and transparent as possible and to establish procedural safeguards to ensure that the dignity and rights of the individual are upheld. An example of a procedural safeguard for involuntary commitment is to allow courts or tribunals access to challenge the admission.21 For more information, please see Chapter 9 on Disability.


Prisoners who are ill often face violations of their rights as patients. Prisoners have the same rights as other patients, including the right to refuse treatment, the right to informed consent, the right to privacy and confidentiality, and the right to information. For example, they have the right to refuse treatment, including abortions and medical testing.22 Conducting these procedures without informed consent would be coerced or forced and in violation of the prisoner’s right to refuse treatment. Derogations from the right to refuse treatment in prison include the prevention and control of communicable diseases and the treatment of mental illness, but both are subject to specific conditions and should be implemented in line with international standards.23 The prison population includes especially vulnerable groups with special needs, including prisoners with mental health care needs, elderly prisoners, and prisoners with terminal illness.24 These vulnerable sub-populations may require special attention to ensure that their rights to health and life with dignity are realized.


Women are particularly vulnerable to violations of their rights while seeking health care, especially for sexual and reproductive health care services. For example, Human Rights Watch documented abuse of pregnant women during health care visits in South Africa:

[Forms of abuse] include ridiculing or ignoring women’s needs when in pain, especially during labour, unnecessary delays in providing treatment, leaving women to deliver their babies without help, accusing women who appear not to be following nurses’ orders of wanting to harm their babies, verbal insults and degrading treatment, such as asking women to clean up their own blood, or intimidation and threats of harm. Physical abuse involves slapping, pinching, rough treatment and a deliberate refusal to give pain-relieving medication.25 

Other issues include independent and autonomous access to sexual and reproductive services, forced sterilization and forced contraception, and physical and sexual abuse by the care giver.26 Violence and assault against women in sexual and reproductive health care settings perpetuates stigma and discrimination against women that denies them human dignity.

The Special Rapporteur to health notes, “Stigma and discrimination against women from marginalized communities, including indigenous women, women with disabilities and women living with HIV/AIDS, have made women from these communities particularly vulnerable to such abuses.”27 The Special Rapporteur on water explains, “Stigma is, by its demeaning and degrading nature, antithetical to the very idea of human dignity. Stigma as a process of devaluation, of making some people “lesser” and others “greater”, is inconsistent with human dignity, which is premised on notions of the inherent equality and worthiness of the human person. It undermines human dignity, thereby laying the groundwork for violations of human rights.”28 Female patients from marginalized populations have the right to seek health care in a manner that is non-discriminatory and respects their dignity.

Access to essential medicines

Access to essential medicines is lacking in many developing countries. An estimated 1.3 to 2.1 billion people worldwide have no access to essential medicines. According to a 2011 study, about one third of the world population lacks regular access to essential medicines.29 Only 10% of pharmaceutical research and development spending is directed to health problems that account for 90% of the global disease burden. A small number of companies dominate global production, trade, and sale of medicines. Ten companies account for almost half of all sales.30 However, “Inequity in access to essential medicines is part of inequity in health care.”31 An expert consultation on access to medicines recommended in 2011 that “From the right to health perspective, access to medicines must be equitable. Additionally, more research and development is needed to promote the availability of new drugs for those diseases causing a heavy burden on developing countries.”32

High pricing is another factor that hinders access to medicines. Companies that develop new medicines are often granted a patent, which permits that company to be the sole manufacturer of that medicine for a designated period of time. The expert consultation on access to medicines explains:

While intellectual property rights have the important function of providing incentives for innovation, they can, in some cases, obstruct access by pushing up the price of medicines. The right to health requires a company that holds a patent on a lifesaving medicine to make use of all the arrangements at its disposal to render the medicine accessible to all.33

Access to essential medicines is considered an integral part of the right to health. However, 60 countries do not recognize the right to health in their national constitutions and more than 30 countries have not yet ratified the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. General Comment 14 says that States must make public health and health care facilities available, including “essential drugs, as defined by the WHO Action Programme on Essential Drugs.”34 


1 Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 28th ed., p. 269.

2 This definition, and other similar definitions, are often provided for the term “health care.”

3 World Health Organization (WHO), Declaration on the Promotion of Patients’ Rights in Europe, European Consultation on the Rights of Patients, (1994).

4 Leaning J, “Human rights and medical education,” Boston Medical Journal 315 (1997): 1390. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7120.1390.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Ducinskiene D et al, “Awareness and practice of patient’s rights law in Lithuania,” BMC International Health and Human Rights 6 (2006):10. www.biomedcentral.com/1472-698X/6/10.

8 Ibid.

9 Velik-Stefanovska V et al, “Rights of Patients in Macedonia According to European Standards” (2005).

10 Gostin L et al, The Domains of Health Responsiveness –A Human Rights Analysis (World Health Organization Health and Human Rights Working Paper Series No 2, 2003). www.who.int/hhr/information/en/Series_2%20Domains%20of%20health%20responsiveness.pdf.

11 Ibid.

12 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective (Nov. 11, 2011). www.oas.org/en/iachr/women/docs/pdf/womenaccessinformationreproductivehealth.pdf.

13 UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), General Comment No. 14, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/2000/4 (Aug. 11, 2000).

14 UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, A/64/272 (Aug. 10, 2009).

15 Akkad A et al, “Patients’ perceptions of written consent: questionnaire study,” Boston Medical Jouranl 333(2006):528. www.bmj.com/content/333/7567/528.

16 UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, A/64/272 (Aug. 10, 2009).

17 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective (Nov. 11, 2011).

18 Ibid.

19 UN Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapportuer on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, E/CN.4/2005/51 (Feb. 11, 2005).

20 World Medical Assembly (WMA), Declaration of Lisbon on the Rights of the Patient, (1981). www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/l4/.

21 UN Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, E/CN.4/2005/51 (Feb. 11, 2005).

22 Lines R, “The right to health of prisoners in international human rights law,” International Journal of Prisoner Health, 4, no. 1 (March 2008): 3-53.

23 Ibid.

24 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Handbook on Prisoners with special needs (2009). www.unodc.org/documents/justice-and-prison-reform/Prisoners-with-special-needs.pdf.

25 Human Rights Watch, Healthcare is Failing Women (Dec. 20, 2011). www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/20/healthcare-failing-women.

26 Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Access to Information on Reproductive Health from a Human Rights Perspective (Nov. 11, 2011). www.oas.org/en/iachr/women/docs/pdf/womenaccessinformationreproductivehealth.pdf; UN General Assembly, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, A/64/272 (Aug. 10, 2009).

27 Ibid.

28 UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, A/HRC/21/42 (July 2, 2012).

29 Hogerzeil H and Mirza Z, The World Medicines Situation in 2011: Access to Essential Medicines as Part of the Right to Health (WHO, 2011). http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/documents/s18772en/s18772en.pdf.

30 World Health Organization (WHO), The World Medicines Situation (2004). http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js6160e/9.html. The 2011 edition is being released chapter by chapter and will be available at: www.who.int/medicines/areas/policy/world_medicines_situation/en/index.html.

31 Hogerzeil H and Mirza Z, The World Medicines Situation in 2011: Access to Essential Medicines as Part of the Right to Health (WHO, 2011). http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/documents/s18772en/s18772en.pdf.

32 UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, A/HRC/17/43 (Mar. 16, 2011).

33 Ibid.

34 UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 14, U.N. Doc. E/C.12/2000/4 (Aug. 11, 2000). www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(symbol)/E.C.12.2000.4.En.

35 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Universal Declaration of Bioethics and Human Rights, 2005. www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/bioethics/bioethics-and-human-rights/.

36 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), “International Bioethics Committee,” www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/bioethics/international-bioethics-committee/.

37 World Medical Assembly, Declaration of Lisbon on the Rights of the Patient [Declaration of Lisbon], 1981. www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/l4/.

38 Ibid.

39 Council of Europe, Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine [Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine], 1997. http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/164.htm.

40 Active Citizenship Network, European Charter of Patients’ Rights [ECPR], 2002. www.eesc.europa.eu/self-and-coregulation/documents/codes/private/085-private-act.pdf.

41 It is important to note that the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. also provided funding for this movement.

42 One of the activities of new EU member-states during the process of preparation for accession in the EU was adjustment of health care legislation towards European standards. Many countries, such as Bulgaria, adopted a new health law, whose structure and contents are strictly in line with the European Charter of Patients’ Rights.


What are the current practices in the area of patient care?

Methods for applying human rights to patient care are diverse and occur on multiple levels of government and through engagement with private actors. A common approach to incorporating human rights norms into patient care is through the development of a code or declaration of patient rights. It is important to keep in mind that this approach does not cover the full range of rights and duties that should be applied to all stakeholders in health care provision. However, developing patient rights that are based upon human rights standards and principles is an important step in delineating the rights and obligations of patients in relation to their health care providers.

Bioethics is another avenue to incorporating human rights into patient care. The definition of “bioethics” remains controversial, but generally the field covers ethical issues arising in the life sciences, medicine, and technology. Bioethics often deals with moral and ethical issues of medical and scientific research as well as approaches to dealing with epidemics. Subsumed under bioethics, too, are ethical issues arising from the relationship between patient and doctor.

When evaluating codifications of patients’ rights or bioethics, it is important to understand that they may contain some human rights principles and elements, but may not necessarily contain the full range of rights granted under human rights law.

In the table below, we provide four different codifications of patients’ rights. We provide these four to offer a picture of the different approaches that can be taken to this subject. It is interesting to note the extent to which each codification incorporates human rights principles and how each codification focuses on certain sets of rights.

1. Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UDBHR).35 The UDBHR was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference on October 19, 2005. The declaration was developed by the International Bioethics Committee under UNESCO, which “follows progress in the life sciences and its applications in order to ensure respect for human dignity and freedom.”36

2. Declaration of Lisbon.37 The World Medical Association’s Declaration of Lisbon on the Rights of the Patient was created in 1981. This declaration was not created using the human rights framework. The preamble states:

While a physician should always act according to his/her conscience, and always in the best interests of the patient, equal effort must be made to guarantee patient autonomy and justice. The following Declaration represents some of the principal rights of the patient that the medical profession endorses and promotes.38

This statement expressly recognizes the rights of physicians to act according to their best medical knowledge. To this end, it is the only declaration in the table below that incorporates a provision on procedures against the patient’s will.

3. European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine.39 The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Dignity of the Human Being with regard to the Application of Biology and Medicine: Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine was adopted by the Council of Europe in 1997. This convention sets out certain basic patient rights principles, such as equitable access to health care and protection of consent, private life, and right to information.

4. European Charter of Patients’ Rights (ECPR).40 The ECPR was compiled in 2002 by Active Citizenship Network, a European network of civic, consumer, and patient organizations. This charter was part of a grassroots movement across Europe for patients to play a more active role in shaping the delivery of health services and an attempt to translate regional documents on the right to health care into specific provisions.41 Although this charter is not legally binding, a strong network of patient rights groups across Europe has successfully lobbied their national governments for recognition and adoption of rights in the charter.42 The charter has also been used as a reference point to monitor and evaluate health care systems across Europe. In September 2007, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESE) approved its own initiative opinion on patients’ rights, declaring that it “welcomes and acknowledges” the European Charter of Patients’ Rights.

Table: Codifications of patients’ rights

UHBHR (2005) Declaration of Lisbon (1981) Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (1997) ECPR (2002)
of Human
Article 3 – Human dignity and human rights1. Human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms are to be fully respected.Article 10 – Equality, justice and equityThe fundamental equality of all human beings in dignity and rights is to be respected so that they are treated justly and equitably. 10. Right to dignitya. The patient’s dignity and right to privacy shall be respected at all times in medical care and teaching, as shall his/her culture and values. Article 1 – Purpose
and objectParties to this Convention shall protect the dignity and identity of all human beings and guarantee everyone, without discrimination, respect for their integrity and other rights and fundamental freedoms with regard to the application of biology and medicine.
Non-Discrimination Article 11 – Non-discrimination and non-stigmatizationNo individual or group should be discriminated against or stigmatized on any grounds, in violation of human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms. 1. Right to medical care of good qualitya. Every person is entitled without discrimination to appropriate medical care. Article 11 –
Non-discriminationAny form of discrimination against a person on grounds of his or her genetic heritage is prohibited.w
2 – Right of accessThe health services must guarantee equal access to everyone, without discriminating on the basis of financial resources, place of residence, kind of illness or time of access to services.
Primacy of the Patient Article 3 – Human dignity and human rights2. The interests and welfare of the individual should have priority over the sole interest of science or society. 1. Right to medical care of good qualityc. The patient shall always be treated in accordance with his/her best interests. Article 2 – Primacy of the human beingThe interests and welfare of the human being shall prevail over the sole interest of society or science.
Access to
Health Care
Article 14 – Social responsibility and health2. … progress in science and technology should advance:
(a) access to quality health care and essential medicines, especially for the health of women and children, because health is essential to life itself and must be considered to be a social and human good.
Article 3 – Equitable access to health careParties, taking into account health needs and available resources, shall take appropriate measures with a view to providing, within their jurisdiction, equitable access to health care of appropriate quality. 2 – Right of accessEvery individual has the right of access to the health services that his or her health needs require. …
UHBHR (2005) Declaration of
Lisbon (1981)
Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine (1997) ECPR (2002)
Quality of Care 1. Right to medical care of good qualityc. … The treatment applied shall be in accordance with generally approved medical principles.d. Quality assurance should always be a part of health care. Physicians, in particular, should accept responsibility for being guardians of the quality of medical services. Article 4 – Professional standardsAny intervention in the health field, including research, must be carried out in accordance with relevant professional obligations and standards. 8 – Right to theObservance of quality standardsEach individual has the right of access to high quality health services on the basis of the specification and observance of precise standards.The right to quality health services requires that health care institutions and professionals provide satisfactory levels of technical performance, comfort and human relations …
Individual Autonomy Article 5 – Autonomy and individual responsibilityThe autonomy of persons to make decisions, while taking responsibility for those decisions and respecting the autonomy of others, is to be respected. For persons who are not capable of exercising autonomy, special measures are to be taken to protect their rights and interests. 3. Right to self-
determinationa. The patient has the right to self-determination, to make free decisions regarding himself/herself. The physician will inform the patient of the consequences of his/her decisions.
5 – Right to free choiceEach individual has the right to freely choose from among different treatment procedures and providers on the basis of adequate information.The patient has the right to decide which diagnostic exams and therapies to undergo, and which primary care doctor, specialist or hospital to use …
Information 7. Right to informationa. The patient has the right to receive information about himself/herself recorded in any of his/her medical records, and to be fully informed about his/her health status including the medical facts about his/her condition. … Article 10 – Private life and right to information2. Everyone is entitled to know any information collected about his or her health. … 3 – Right to informationEvery individual has the right to access to all kind of information regarding their state of health, the health services and how to use them, and all that scientific research and technological innovation makes available. …
Article 6 – Consent1. Any preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic medical intervention is only to be carried out with the prior, free and informed consent of the person concerned, based on adequate information … 3. Right to self-determinationb. A mentally competent adult patient has the right to give or withhold consent to any diagnostic procedure or therapy. The patient has the right to the information necessary to make his/her decisions… Article 5 – General ruleAn intervention in the health field may only be carried out after the person concerned has given free and informed consent to it … 4 – Right to consentEvery individual has the right of access to all information that might enable him or her to actively participate in the decisions regarding his or her health; this information is a prerequisite for any procedure and treatment …
Persons Who Lack Capacity
to Provide
Article 7 – Persons
without the capacity
to consentIn accordance with domestic law, special protection is to be given to persons who do not have the capacity to consent:
(a) authorization for research and medical practice should be obtained in accordance with the best interest of the person concerned and in accordance with domestic law. However, the person concerned should be involved to the greatest extent possible in the decision-making process of consent, as well as that of withdrawing consent; …
4. The unconscious patienta. If the patient is unconscious or otherwise unable to express his/her will, informed consent must be obtained whenever possible, from a legally entitled representative. …5. The legally
incompetent patienta. If a patient is a minor or otherwise legally incompetent, the consent of a legally entitled representative is required in some jurisdictions. Nevertheless the patient must be involved in the decision-making to the fullest extent allowed by his/her capacity…
Article 6 – Protection of persons not able to consent1. … an intervention may only be carried out on a person who does not have the capacity to consent, for his or her direct benefit …Article 7 – Protection of persons who have a mental disorder… a person who has a mental disorder of a serious nature may be subjected, without his or her consent, to an intervention aimed at treating his or her mental disorder only where, without such treatment, serious harm is likely to result to his or her health.Article 8 – Emergency situationArticle 9 – Previously expressed wishes 4 – Right to consentIn all circumstances which provide for a legal representative to give the informed consent, the patient, whether a minor or an adult unable to understand or to will, must still be as involved as possible in the decisions regarding him or her. The informed consent of a patient must be procured on this basis.
Privacy and Confidentiality Article 9 – Privacy and confidentialityThe privacy of the persons concerned and the confidentiality of their personal information should be respected. … 8. Right to confidentialitya. All identifiable information about a patient’s health status, medical condition, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment and all other information of a personal kind must be kept confidential, even after death. … Article 10 – Private life and right to informationEveryone has the right to respect for private life in relation to information about his or her health. 6-Right to privacy and confidentialityEvery individual has the right to the confidentiality of personal information, including information regarding his or her state of health and potential diagnostic or therapeutic procedures, as well as the protection of his or her privacy during the performance of diagnostic exams, specialist visits, and medical/surgical treatments in general. …

The European Charter of Patients’ Rights contains 14 provisions, of which only seven
are featured within the table above. The full list of provisions is:

1. Right to Preventative Measures

2. Right of Access

3. Right to Information

4. Right to Consent

5. Right to Free Choice

6. Right to Privacy and Confidentiality

7. Right to Respect Patients’ Time

8. Right to the Observance of Quality Standards

9. Right to Safety

10. Right to Innovation

11. Right to Avoid Unnecessary Suffering and Pain

12. Right to Personalized Treatment

13. Right to Complain

14. Right to Compensation