Last updated 1 December 2020
Section 37 of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (Human Rights Act) provides that every person has the right to access health services without discrimination. This includes the right not to be refused emergency medical treatment immediately necessary to save the person’s life or prevent serious impairment. There is no comparable right to health services in any other Australian jurisdiction.
The Human Rights Act does not contain a right to health services, but rather provides for more limited rights such as the rights:
- to access health services without discrimination
- not to be refused emergency medical treatment that is immediately necessary to save life or prevent serious impairment.
Section 37 is not intended to give rights to ‘underlying determinants of health’, such as food and water, social security, housing and environmental factors.
The right to health services will also be subject to the general limitation provision in s 13 of the Human Rights Act. This provides human rights may be subject under law to reasonable limits, which are justified in a free and democratic society. See ‘Human Rights may be Limited’ for further explanation.
The right to health services is unique to Queensland. It is likely that s 37 of the Human Rights Act may be engaged:
- where a policy or law regulates the provision of health care to people under state care (e.g. those on involuntary treatment orders and prisoners)
- in ensuring access to state-supplied health services, including to mental health treatment
- in the course of a discrimination complaint (e.g. where a person is treated less favourably during delivery of state health services, or where a condition, rule or practice that applies the same to everyone has an adverse impact on people with a protected attribute).
These examples have been adapted from reported cases in Australia. They are provided by way of example only, and are not a substitute for legal advice.