What rights
do I have?

There are 16 rights in the Human Rights Act.

The rights in the Human Rights Act are called 'Articles'. In this section we will explain some of your human rights.

These are the ones which will usually be important in health and care services that you may use:

Right to life

Right to be free from inhuman and degrading treatment

Right to liberty

Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence

Right not to be discriminated against when relying on your other rights in the Human Rights Act

See a list of all 16 rights here.

This Right is protected by Article 2 in the Human Rights Act.

1) How is my right relevant in health and social care settings?

Some examples include:

  • If you are having suicidal thoughts or want to take your own life whilst in hospital or in detention and public officials know you are at risk of suicide but don’t protect you.
  • Abuse or neglect in detention or care which leads to death.
  • Healthcare professionals refusing to give you life-saving treatment because of your mental health or mental capacity issue.

2) Can my right be restricted by health and social care services?

No. A health or care professional cannot deliberately take away your right to life.

3) What duties do public officials have about my right to life?

To RESPECT your right
This means not deliberately taking away your life.

To PROTECT your right
This means taking reasonable steps to protect your life when public officials know (or should know) that your life is at real and immediate risk. This risk could be from another official or other people like your family or a patient, or from yourself (if you have suicidal thoughts whilst in the case of services).

To FULFIL your right
This means investigating when officials may have been involved in a death or failed to act, for example if a person staying on a mental health ward takes their life whilst in hospital.

4) Further information

If you would like more information on the right to life and how it works in mental health or mental capacity settings, please look at pages 13-14 of our booklet ‘Mental Health, Mental Capacity: My human rights’.

If you are representing someone, e.g. as an advocate, you may also wish to look at pages 10-11 of our booklet, ‘Mental Health, Mental Capacity and Human Rights: A practitioner’s guide’.

Real Life Human Rights Story without Court Action

Treatment withheld from man with learning disabilities

Bryn was 60 and lived in supported living. He had severe learning disabilities and epilepsy, and was non-communicative and blind. Bryn wasn’t lying down to go to sleep, but was sleeping sitting up in a chair. As this can be an indication of a heart condition, staff at the home called a GP to visit Bryn.

Bryn had an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate who attended a multiple disciplinary meeting to represent Bryn. At this meeting, the GP said he would not be arranging a heart scan for Bryn as ‘he has a learning disability and no quality of life’. Bryn’s advocate had been to a workshop on human rights run by the British Institute of Human Rights.

She didn’t think that Bryn’s rights were being respected. She knew that Bryn had:

  • The right to life (protected by Article 2 in the Human Rights Act)
  • The right to be free from discrimination (protected by Article 14 in the Human Rights Act)

At the meeting Bryn’s advocate asked the doctor if he would have arranged a heart scan if anyone else in the room was in this situation, and the GP said that he would. It was agreed that Bryn would have a heart scan.

However, it was not arranged and the advocate had to raise this three times with the GP and other practitioners before the scan eventually took place.

Sadly, Bryn passed away as a result of his heart condition before any treatment could take place.

(Real life example from Solent Mind, participants in BIHR’s Care and Support Project)

Real Life Human Rights Case from the Courts

Protecting patients at risk of suicide

Melanie Rabone was 24 years old and voluntarily admitted herself to a mental health hospital after she had attempted to take her own life. She was assessed as being at high risk of suicide, and whilst on leave from the hospital took her own life. Her family took a human rights case to court, and the court ruled that the hospital had failed in their duty to protect Melanie’s right to life. The hospital had a duty to take reasonable steps to protect Melanie’s life, including by detaining her under the Mental Health Act to try and prevent her suicide.

(Rabone v Pennine Case NSA Foundation Trust, 2012)