Your rights in Hungarian healthcare - as a refugee from the war in Ukraine
In Hungary, the Health Act (Eütv.) protects patients' rights. These rights also apply to people fleeing from Ukraine. As part of this, the law provides all patients with the following:
The right to health care
The right to human dignity
The right to contact
The right to information
The right to self-determination
The right to refuse treatment
The right to access their medical records
The right to medical confidentiality
The right to leave the institution.
The meaning of these rights is explained in more detail below.
When am I entitled to health care?
A person's immigration status (Hungarian citizen; entitled to temporary protection, or “menedékes” as it is called in Hungarian; third country national) determines what kind of health care they will be entitled to in Hungary. You can select the information leaflets that relate to your status on the home page of our guide.
If you are entitled to health care, your most basic right is to receive adequate care. This means being examined, treated and having your pain relieved by competent doctors. If there is no immediate need for intervention, patients can choose the health facility and the doctor who will treat them. (If you need a referral to a facility, it is important to know that the referral must be made out to the facility you want to go to, so this should be agreed with the referring doctor in advance.) The institution you have chosen may not be able to provide the treatment you need. In this case, the patient should be put on a waiting list, alternatively, they should be informed whether there is another institution available where they can receive treatment as soon as possible.
How should I be treated by the healthcare providers?
In the hospitals and surgeries patients should be treated with human dignity: They should be addressed politely and treated with respect, they should not be made to wait unnecessarily, their privacy should be respected, i.e. they should not be asked to undress without good reason, and they should not be made to be seen without clothing in front of people other than their doctor. Patients should only undergo procedures necessary for their care and their personal freedom should be respected. This means that, apart from a few special cases, you cannot be prevented from leaving the hospital, forced to go to a sick room or to stay in a sick bed. In addition, all patients have the right to use their own clothes and personal belongings in the hospital.
Can I be banned from receiving visitors at the hospital?
During their hospital stay, patients are entitled to be visited by relatives or friends. The exact rules for visiting (when visitors are allowed, how many people can enter the ward at a time, etc.) are set out in the hospital regulations. Visits may be restricted only in special cases, for example during an epidemic. In the case of a patient with a serious condition, the person designated by the patient may be with the patient continuously, on a permanent basis. Serious patients are those who are unable to care for themselves, who experience unrelievable pain, and who are in a state of psychological crisis. Parents are also entitled by law to stay with their sick child under the age of eighteen at all times. The hospital must ensure at the request of a woman in labour that her partner is allowed to stay with her during labour and delivery and that after delivery the baby is placed in the same room with her, unless health reasons preclude it.
What information should the doctor share with me about my illness? What happens if I do not speak Hungarian?
In all cases, the doctor should tell the patient the following without being asked:
What to expect, the course of the disease, what outcome is expected
What tests and interventions are recommended and why
What are the risks of undergoing/not undergoing these interventions
What to expect as a result of the interventions and treatments
What other types of treatment might be considered
The patient's right to decide about their treatment.
Patients have to be given clear information and have their questions answered by their doctor. Patients who do not speak Hungarian and do not have a common language with the doctor can call 1812 for an interpreter.
What decisions remain mine to make at the doctor's office or at the hospital?
Patients can decide for themselves about their treatment: Whether to visit a doctor, which procedures and tests to agree to and which to refuse. The doctor can only perform procedures on us that we have consented to. We must be given clear information before we give our consent. For simple tests and procedures, it is sufficient to give verbal consent or to not raise an objection. However, for surgeries and more serious interventions that are invasive, written consent is required. If the patient is unable to write, they can give their consent in front of two witnesses. An important rule is that consent can be withdrawn at any time, but you should also be aware that if you withdraw your consent without due cause, you may be liable to pay the costs incurred.
Can I refuse medical treatment?
Patients can choose not to receive medical care or have certain procedures. In most cases, it is sufficient to communicate your decision verbally to your doctor. It is a different situation if your condition is so serious that if the intervention is not carried out it can be expected that your health might be permanently damaged or seriously deteriorated. The law is strict about refusing such treatment. In such cases, the patient must make a handwritten and signed statement of refusal of care. We can only refuse treatment without which we would soon die if we otherwise suffer from an incurable disease that would lead to death within a short period of time even with proper medical care. In this case, too, the refusal can be made by a handwritten and signed statement. We also have the option of making advance arrangements about what they can and cannot do to us in our incapacitated state, what treatments we are willing/not willing to receive. This declaration is called an advance health care directive and if you wish to make one, this document has to be validated by having it notarised.
Can I see my medical records?
Healthcare institutions keep records of their patients' details, tests and treatments. Patients have the right to see the medical data concerning them (medical findings, X-rays, written medical opinions, etc.). This means that in addition to asking your doctor for verbal information you can also ask to see the documents that contain your information. You can consult the documents and you can also request or make copies of them and even take photographs of them. If you ask for a copy, the first copy is free of charge, but you will have to pay for any further copies, so it is a good idea to find out about the costs in advance. However, the cost of copying must not be set significantly higher than the normal price. Patients discharged from hospital should get a final report, while for patients treated at an outpatient clinic an outpatient form should be issued upon leaving. The final report and the outpatient form contain details of the medical care and treatments received. Our information sheet on medical documents is available here.
Can the doctor give out information about my illness?
Doctors and all healthcare workers are obliged to keep patient information confidential. All data related to your illness, tests and treatments are considered a medical secret. However, the information available to healthcare providers is confidential from everyone else. As part of medical confidentiality, patients have the right to determine to whom information about their state of health can be disclosed and with whom it cannot be shared.
Am I free to leave the hospital?
Patients have the right to leave the healthcare institution at any time, provided that they do not endanger the health of others. The law merely requires the patient to notify their doctor of their intention to leave. When the reason for leaving is that the patient's treatment has ended, the hospital must inform the patient in advance, preferably at least 24 hours before the discharge.
What rights do children have in healthcare?
Children under 18 years of age can exercise most of the patient rights at the discretion of their parent (legal guardian) or with the consent of the parent.
It is the parent who can give consent to medical treatments (parental consent is only required for invasive treatments, but in practice it is usually asked for all procedures) and it is also the parent who can refuse treatment. The information regarding the illness of a child must be given to their parent. Parents have the right to all the information about their child's illness and treatment.
The parent must be allowed to stay in the hospital with their child continuously, even overnight, and is entitled to get meals at the hospital and, if the hospital can provide it, a bed to sleep on.
Patients under 14 years of age cannot make their own decision to leave the hospital, but their parent (legal guardian) can decide to leave.
It is important to know that if the parent's decision would endanger the health of their child, the hospital can report this to the child protection service.
What can I do if one of my rights in healthcare has been violated?
If we feel that our health care has been harmful to us, we have a variety of legal options. These aim to find some way of redressing the harm we have suffered. Some of them are aimed at resolving a conflict that arose during care, and others are longer procedures that require legal expertise. If this has happened to you, contact the free legal aid service of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. Call or write: 061/209-0046; email@example.com