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 be free from discrimination
1) This right is protected by Article 14 in the Human Rights Act.
This is not a stand-alone right to be free from discrimination. It’s a right not to be discriminated against when you are relying on your other rights in the Human Rights Act. This means that when one of your other rights is engaged, you can also raise your right to non-discrimination if you think that is an issue.
For example, if a doctor decides not to treat your physical health problem because of your mental health issue, your right to wellbeing under Article 8 would be in play and you could use non-discrimination arguments in your negotiations with the doctor.
2) How is my right relevant in health and social care settings?
3) Can my right be restricted by health and social care services?
For example, if a local authority is running a women-only mental health facility, this would be discriminating on the basis of gender but could be justified as necessary to meet the needs of women patients. But very strong reasons are needed to justify discrimination on the basis of disability (including your mental health or mental capacity issue).
Real Life Human Rights Story without Court Action
Learning disabled man challenges Do Not Resuscitate Order
Laurie was a 51-year old man with Down’s syndrome and dementia. During a hospital stay he had a ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ order (an instruction to the medical team not to attempt resuscitation if he fell unconscious) put on his file without him or his family being consulted.
The reasons written on the order by the doctor were: “Down’s syndrome, unable to swallow… bed bound, learning difficulties”. As his life was at stake he was able to challenge this as discrimination linked to (or “piggy-backing” onto) his right to life. He started a human rights legal case but it was settled out of court and the NHS Trust apologised.
Mental health patient refused surgery challenges decision as discrimination
Margaret was 18 years old and getting treatment for a mental health issue in an independent hospital. She needed surgery on an injury after self-harming but a doctor decided not to perform the operation. Her GP, psychiatrist and other staff believed the surgery was in her best interest and the delay was causing Margaret significant distress and pain.
Advocates supported the hospital manager to challenge the doctor’s decision as an interference with her human rights and discrimination on the basis of her severe mental health needs. As a result Margaret received the surgery.
(Real life story, taken from our booklet ‘Mental Health Advocacy and Human Rights’, 2013)