Message from the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights on the occasion of the World Day of the Sick

On the World Day of the Sick, it is important to remember and to remind others that anybody can get in a vulnerable position, i.e., get ill or suffer an injury at any time. In order to preserve our dignity and self‑determination, legal guarantees and human rights institutions monitoring their implementation are not enough, the sick must be legally aware and the actors of the health care system must possess an open and positive attitude. Securing equal and uninterrupted access to health care, efficient and substantive medical care and helping those in need are vital issues of national importance in every country, including Hungary.

We have been commemorating the international day of the sick since 1993: on this day the world's attention is turned toward sick people being in a vulnerable position. To make decisions on issues concerning one's health or sickness, curing or mitigating the effects of the latter is a fundamental human right. In order to make the right decisions, one must be properly informed: one cannot make well‑founded decisions without adequate knowledge. Due to their state of health, sick people are not in the position to terminate their treatment or demand, there and then, information that have not been provided; however, they are the ones to suffer all the consequences of their treatment. In addition to applicable rules and guarantees designed to handle this asymmetric situation based on informed consent, further special regulations and their unconditional execution are needed in the case of specific groups of the sick, e.g., psychiatric patients or sick children.

In Hungary, the existing legal and informational inequality and the vulnerability resulting therefrom have been counterbalanced, since 1998, by the catalogue of patients' rights stipulated by the Health Care Act and by the ever expanding system of fundamental rights protection institutions. The Ombudsman is a major pillar of this system. The Commissioners have been paying special attention from the very beginning, in the broad sense, to the problems of the health care system, the functioning of its institutions and the implementation of patients' rights. On the world day of the sick, and from the aspects of protecting patients' rights, it is of paramount importance to emphasize that any‑ and everyone availing themselves of the services of the health care system should be considered and treated as patients.

In addition to the Ombudsman, the first line of defence and information, the patients' rights representatives and their supervising and coordinating authority, the National Patients', Beneficiaries' and Children's Rights and Documentation Centre (OBDK) also play a key role in protecting patients' rights and guaranteeing informed consent. The Commissioner is constantly monitoring the development, methodological expansion of the OBDK, also paying attention to and advocating the improvement of the set of instruments of the administrative protection of rights. In order to expand legal awareness and legal knowledge and facilitate inter‑institutional cooperation, staff members of the Office of the Commissioner also actively participate in the training program of the OBDK.