What Does the Human Rights Act Say About Hospital Negligence?

Public authorities must adhere to the rules set out by the Human Rights Act, but it’s not uncommon for human rights breaches to occur in cases of hospital negligence.

In this article, we’ll explore how the Human Rights Act is relevant to different instances of clinical negligence.

The Human Rights Act 1998 defines the freedoms and rights that every person in the UK is entitled to. It includes the rights that are stated as part of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Act is structured into ‘Articles’, and each Article covers a different human right. All of the articles also feature in the ECHR and are sometimes referred to as Convention Rights.

Public authorities, for example government departments, the police, hospitals, and the NHS, must follow the Human Rights Act to conduct their duties and services. If an individual’s Human Rights have been breached, that person can take legal action.

When it comes to hospitals, human rights breaches take place in hospital negligence cases.

In this article, we’re going to explore these situations further.

What Does the Human Rights Act Say About Hospital Negligence?

How is hospital negligence defined?

Hospital negligence refers to experiencing inadequate care during a hospital stay. It covers situations where a person has received poor-quality, delayed, or incorrect treatment.

Situations like these can worsen an existing condition or create further pain.

It takes place in many forms, and cases vary greatly.

Here are a few common examples of hospital negligence:

  • Mistakes were made during surgery.
  • Complications with anaesthetic procedures.
  • The patient was given the wrong dosage or medication.
  • Poor-quality care during labour that caused health complications.
  • Misdiagnosis or postponed treatment.

What does the Human Rights Act say about hospital negligence?

The Human Rights Act does not refer to hospital negligence specifically, however, some hospital negligence claims do involve a breaches of the Human Rights Act.

In such cases, the incidence of negligence may relate to one of the following articles:

2nd Article: every person’s right to life must be safeguarded by the law.

What this means is, nobody, including authorities such as the government, can attempt to end your life (making certain death penalty offences interesting)

Everyone has the right to be protected if their life is under threat.

In a hospital setting, clinicians must consider Article 2 when making choices that could impact a patient’s life expectancy.

The 2nd Article of the Human Rights Act might be relevant if:

  • A person has been given an order to ‘not resuscitate’ (without being asked to provide their consent).
  • A patient has been denied a treatment that could save their life.
  • An individual has died due to mistreatment or neglect, while in hospital.

3rd Article: The right to not be subjected to punishment, degrading treatment, or torture.

The 3rd Article of the Human Rights Act states that no person should be subjected to punishment, inhumane treatment, or torture. This article also covers extradition or deportation.

In terms of hospital negligence, the following situations would be in breach of Article 3 of the Human Rights Act:

  • You’ve been isolated, or restrained, because of mental health issues you are experiencing.
  • Your health care providers have not helped you to drink and eat in situations where you could not perform these actions.
  • You’ve experienced neglect or severe mistreatment while in hospital.
staff in a hospital

5th Article: The right to liberty; this article focuses on protecting freedom.

Article 5 may be considered in hospital negligence claims.

The Article protects individuals, if for example:

  • A patient has been kept in hospital because they cannot currently choose whether they’d like to be admitted there.
  • A person is detained due to mental health problems, but the legal documents have not been reviewed properly.
  • A patient has been restrained for long periods at a time.

8th Article: all people have the right to respect, in terms of their family and private life.

The 8th Article may be appropriate in a hospital negligence claim, for example, in these situations:

  • A person wants to be placed in a ward with others of the same sex.
  • A patient wants a higher level of privacy in their care home.
  • An individual is told that their family cannot come to see them during their hospital stay.
  • A patient wants to talk about a health problem in a private setting.

Article 14: The right to not face discrimination, which also includes protection from discrimination.

The Human Rights Act states that you mustn’t be treated differently, or have your rights breached, due to discrimination.

If you have been subjected to poor medical care, due to discrimination based on race, disability, or sex, this is viewed as a breach of Article 14.

a hospital bed

How is the Human Rights Act used to support a hospital negligence case?

To prove that breaches of the Human Rights Act have occurred, there is a strict criterion in place.

For example, if an injured person dies as a result of hospital negligence, the incident is not always considered a violation of Article 2.

To prove that the incident goes against Article 2, the event must be the result of an institutional failing, as opposed to the negligence of an individual.

To use the Human Rights Act to support a hospital negligence case, you’ll need the guidance of a hospital negligence solicitor.

A specialist solicitor can assess the strengths and shortcomings of the case, collect evidence, and guide the patient through the legal proceedings.

Hospital negligence cases can be complicated, upsetting, and stressful. Receiving poor quality care, or degrading treatment can cause long-term physical and psychological damage.

When Human Rights articles have been breached, such cases become even more emotionally draining. To move forward, the individual in question must seek legal support and, in some circumstances, mental health support too.

Have you ever had an experience with hospital negligence? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Until next time,


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