Patients’ Rights in France

Patients' Rights in France

The five main categories of information and guidelines

What are the basic rights of patients and their relatives in France ? Because these rights are still quite unknown to many English speakers, I reunited and made simpler everything you must need to know (just in case and I really hope not!) you or your loved ones get sick and hospitalized here in France. As a specialized clinician in Public Health, my goal is to educate and make all necessary information accessible to anyone in need. So read on, here are the five main categories of information and guidelines to Patients’ Rights in France.

I. Right to access healthcare and the choice of doctor (health service provider)

In France, all patients have the right to the most appropriate care and the most effective therapies. They have the right to choose their doctor or preferred health institution; which means that no one should be subjected to discrimination with regard to access to prevention or care. 

A healthcare professional can not refuse to treat a person for any of the following reasons: origin, age, sexual orientation, religion, last name, family circumstances, place of residence, state of health: pregnancy, physical appearance, loss of independence, disability, genetic characteristics, ability to speak a language other than French, or particular vulnerability resulting from the person’s financial circumstances (like having an AME or a CMU-C).

II. Right to information and respect for confidentiality

All patients in France, have the right to information about their state of health and their conditions of stay in the health facility. Patients have the right to access their medical files and be informed about the costs on how much they may be charged for any preventive, diagnostic, or treatment-related services. Whether or not it is urgent, a patient must be informed regarding the consequences, the common or serious risks, as well as any other possible solutions and foreseeable outcome if he refuses treatment. With respect to minors or adults under guardianship, their rights can be exercised by parents or by the patient’s guardian.

All health care professionals are required to inform patients about the services they provide. Except during emergency situations or when it is impossible to inform the patient or third parties are exposed to a risk of transmission.

III. Right to participate in the medical decision

A patient should actively participate in medical decisions concerning him and has the right to appoint a person of trust – La personne de confiance. He has the right to refuse a medical act nor receive treatment. Thus, a patient has the right to leave a French health establishment at any time. A minor or adult under guardianship must still be systematically asked for consent and take part in the decision-making process. If a refusal of treatment by the person with parental rights or by the guardian may have serious consequences for the minor or adult under guardianship, the doctor shall provide the care that is crucial to his/her health. 

In France, all healthcare providers must inform patients regarding all health-related decisions on the basis of protocols and health recommendations. The doctor is required to respect the patient’s wishes after informing him/her of the consequences and the seriousness of the choice. No medical procedure or treatment can be performed without the patient’s free and informed consent, and this consent can be withdrawn.

IV. Respect for the patient

All patients should be treated with respect regarding his/her dignity, privacy, and beliefs. They have the right to the relief of pain, to access palliative care and most especially, the right to a dignified life until death

Any individual receiving care from a health care professional, facility, or unit, or from organizations offering prevention or treatment services, has the right to secrecy of his/her personal information. This confidentiality requirement applies to all professionals involved in France’s health care system.

V. Litigation and compensation

A patient has the right to be heard in case of a complaint and to make it known to the Commission of Users – La Commission des Usagers (CDU). Patients have the right to mediation in case of disputes and avail the right to ask for compensation for damages suffered before the Regional Conciliation and Compensation Commission – Commission régionale de conciliation et d’indemnisation des accidents médicaux (CRCI). 

Anyone who experiences an unjustified denial of healthcare can submit a formal complaint to the local French health authorities or to the appropriate local professional board to report the incident. If the local professional board fails to act within the three-month deadline, the local health authority can take disciplinary action against the healthcare professional.  

To all AME, CMU-C, ACS, MSA, Mutuelle-holder… know your rights here in France!

– Clinician Nancy 🍀

Textes de référence :

  • World Health Organization 
  • Haute Autorité de Santé, 66 Millions d’Impatients, CH Metropole Savoie
  • Code de la Santé Publique : 
    • loi de 4 March 2002 : Démocratie sanitaire
    • loi de 22 April 2005 : Les droits des malades en fin de vie
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