ContentJust Search pageLJF site navigationLeft navigation links
LJF Logo
Publications sectionJustice Awards sectionResearch sectionGrants sectionPlain language law sectionNetworks section
Just Search

cover image

The legal needs of older people  ( 2004 )  Cite this report

Ch 5. Health

Print chapter
Search or view whole report
View PDF


Given that older people are more susceptible to illness and disability than any other age group, health-related legal issues become a predominant concern. The issues of access and quality of health services, inappropriate hospital discharge practices, and medication misuse, reflect broader concerns about patient’s rights as consumers of health services. Certain cohort characteristics of older people, such as their reluctance to question, complain and challenge the authority of doctors and health service providers, act as barriers to protecting and enforcing these basic patient rights. These barriers have significant implications for the effectiveness of current complaint and legal mechanisms, where the onus of enforcing rights falls on the individual.

An identified source of health related consumer issues for older people is the poor quality of communication between health service providers and older people. Attitudinal stereotypes, cohort factors and lack of access to information all contribute to such difficulties. Advance health care directives are one mechanism which focus on discussion and involving the older person.

Older people with a longstanding disability are a particularly vulnerable group within the aged population. Health complications are intensified as a result of the long-term effects of disability, and access to services are made more difficult due to the lack of cross-collaboration of disability and aged care sectors.

Like many other consumer related issues, the mechanisms available to address health-related legal issues rely on the aggrieved party to be sufficiently motivated, confident and aware of the relevant complaint processes, to initiate a complaint. It is therefore important that the available mechanisms and services to address health-related legal issues are accessible and appropriate to older people, and are able to specifically cater to their needs.


Ellison, S, Schetzer, L, Mullins, Perry, J & Wong, K 2004, The legal needs of older people in NSW, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney