Last updated 15 February 2019

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) and
  • able to freely and voluntarily decide whether to have the treatment and
  • 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, attorney for personal matters or guardian for healthcare 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 (OHO) has the authority to hear and conciliate complaints about any unreasonable aspect of health services provided at any place by any health service provider, including both registered and unregistered health practitioners in Queensland.

Health Practitioners

Registered health practitioners are registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld) (see list of boards).

Unregistered health practitioners are any other individuals providing health service, which can include:

  • nutritionists
  • masseuses
  • naturopaths
  • homoepaths
  • dieticians
  • acupuncturists
  • social workers
  • speech pathologists.

Health service organisations

The OHO can also deal with complaints about any public or private organisation or entity providing a health service. This includes health services aligned with both registered and unregistered practitioners (e.g. a hospital and massage parlour are both health service organisations).

Other examples of health service organisations include:

  • public or private hospitals or health services
  • ambulance service
  • medical, dental, pharmaceutical or physiotherapy practice.

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