Last updated 16 August 2016

If a doctor treats a person without their consent, the doctor commits an assault for which the person is entitled to bring legal action. Treatment carried out without consent in an emergency is not, however, assault (see the case of Rogers v Whitaker (1992) 175 CLR 479).

In some institutions, residents routinely receive medication, particularly sedative drugs. If such drugs are given against the will of the resident, especially if force is used to administer them, the administration of the drugs may amount to an assault.

Signed blanket consent to medical treatment does not automatically provide a doctor with the authority to give all forms of medical treatment.

A person who has a disability can consent to medical treatment if they are:

  • capable of understanding the nature and effect of the treatment (as well as the consequences of refusing treatment)
  • able to freely and voluntarily decide whether to have the treatment
  • able to communicate their decision about whether to have the treatment.

If a person who has a disability is not capable of making healthcare decisions, a statutory health attorney or guardian is able to make these decisions for them (see the chapter on Laws Relating to Individual Decision Making).

Complaints about health services

The Office of the Health Ombudsman has the authority to hear and conciliate complaints about any unreasonable aspect of health services. It can accept complaints about:

  • hospitals
  • nursing homes
  • some hostels and supported accommodation services
  • psychiatric hospitals
  • services provided in association with the use of premises for the care, treatment or accommodation of people with a physical or mental illness.

For details about the operation of the Office of the Health Ombudsman and the process of making a complaint see the chapter on Complaints Against Professionals.