Helping you get through tough times

Knowing your rights

When you visit your local doctor, counsellor or any other health service there are certain things you have a right to expect.
Irish constitution
These things include:

  • being able to see a qualified health professional and being given good care
  • to be treated with dignity and respect
  • your health and personal details to be kept confidential where appropriate/possible (in some cases, the law makes the health professional tell your information to another person or authority – if you’re worried about how much you should tell your health practitioner, then ask what their obligations are, see confidentiality)
  • services that are free of physical and mental abuse, bullying, harassment, and discrimination on the grounds of your age, gender, race, family status, sexual orientation or disability
  • services that take into account your cultural, religious, social and ethnic needs, values and beliefs.

You also have a right to:

  • bring a friend or family member with you when you are seeing a doctor or other health professional
  • get information on where to go for health services and treatment – your GP should be able to help you with this.

The Health Service Executive and the phone book or Golden Pages online have details of your local health centre and services in your area.

If you feel you have been denied any of these rights, you can:

  • talk to your health professional about your concerns, it’s good for them to know
  • make a complaint to the Health Service Executive – read how to do this on the Health Service Executive website
  • check  Citizen’s Information on making a complaint which will help you figure it out
  • look for another health service provider. Everyone is different, and another person might be a better fit for you.


If you’re receiving treatment of any kind, your health care provider should talk to you about the options and risks involved. Before deciding on anything make sure you understand all the information.

If you aren’t sure about something, it can help to bring along someone you trust – a family member or friend. Asking lots of questions may also help you to understand what your doctor is saying.

Ask for information to take away with you or websites where you can get more information. It can be difficult to take everything in on the spot.

All the information you receive about your health care should be given to you in language you understand and a way that works for you. Sometimes diagrams or written summaries can help. The most important thing is that you get to grips with the information and your questions are answered.

Giving consent

Once you have all the information you need you can make a considered decision about your treatment. In other words, you can give ‘informed consent’.

Generally, medical treatment or care should not be given to you unless you have given your informed consent. If you’re under 16 years-old, a parent or guardian may be required to give their consent, but once your turn 16 you may seek treatment and give consent on your own behalf.

Depending on the circumstances, you may make decisions together with your parents. They’re often good at helping with these things, but once you are over 16 years-old, the right of consent is yours.

You have the right to be involved in decisions about your health and should be informed and allowed to make choices.

If you wish, your parents may stay with you during consultations, minor procedures and when in hospital, unless there is some medical or legal reason to stop this. If this is the case the reasons should be discussed with you.

It takes time to think over major decisions. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to your friends and family. If you are not sure what to do, have further talks with your health provider or to get a second opinion.

How you feel about your treatment matters, so do what you need to do to be comfortable with your decisions. You can find more information on the issue of consent in confidentiality and consent.

Medical Card and GP Visit Entitlements

Depending on your financial circumstances, you might be entitled to a medical card which would enable you to get a range of medical treatments free of charge and much cheaper prescriptions. Or you might be able to get a GP visit card that entitles you to see your doctor for free.

Read more about this in medical cards and GP visits.

This article was last reviewed on 03 May 2017

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