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THE INDIVIDUAL’S RIGHT TO TREATMENT UNDER THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT 1998

The rise of consumerism, feminism and the discipline of bioethics have all contributed to an increasing demand from individuals to be involved in healthcare decisions that affect themselves, their children and other relatives. The executive has, to a limited extent, supported this movement for greater involvement in our own healthcare. Documents such as the Patient’s Charter and Changing Childbirth (DoH, 1993) bear witness to this trend, as does the Lord Chancellor’s report, Making Decisions (1999), which deals with the power to make decisions for incompetent adults. Legislation moving in this direction, though perhaps not far enough, includes the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.1 Despite these moves towards increasing patient choice, the individual’s legally protected rights regarding treatment choices remain largely negative in character. Thus, while the courts have affirmed the right of the individual to refuse treatment,2 the right to demand treatment has been consistently denied.3