Rights of carers

As a carer, you have the right to be involved in decisions about a persons care if that person can’t make a decision for themselves.

This is true whether you are an adult or young carer, a young carer under 16, or a paid or unpaid carer.

Making decisions

Although carers can and should be involved in decisions, they cannot make a final decision on a persons care unless they're that person’s legal proxy.

If you know what the person you care for wants, you should tell the health professional looking after them. Any information you give health professionals should be kept in the person’s health record.

Your rights as a carer

If decisions are being made about the person you care for, you have a right to:

  • say what you think about any planned health care or treatment
  • have your views taken into account when a final decision is made
  • disagree with a decision
  • ask for a second opinion if you are unhappy with the decision
  • go to court about a decision
  • ask for written information about the care and treatment to take away

Rights of the person you care for

The person you care for has the right to:

  • make decisions about their health care and treatment
  • be properly consulted about their health care and treatment
  • have someone with them at their medical appointment
  • help with making decisions and expressing their wishes

Making decisions

Any decisions about a person’s health care or treatment must always:

  • benefit them
  • be necessary
  • restrict their freedom as little as possible
  • take into account their past and present wishes

Treatment without consent

The person you care for can be treated without consent if:

  • the person cannot make a decision on their own and no one is available to make the decision for them
  • it is needed to save the person’s life or stop them suffering more serious harm
  • the person you care for is being looked after under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, they can be treated for their mental illness or disorder without consent

Specialist treatments

Only a doctor appointed by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland can allow the following treatments to be given to people with incapacity:

  • Abortion
  • Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for mental disorder
  • Drugs to reduce sex drive
  • Any treatment that may lead to sterilisation

Only the Court of Session can allow the following treatments to be given to people with incapacity:

  • Sterilisation
  • Surgical treatment to reduce sex drive
  • Neurosurgery for mental disorder


Research on adults with incapacity can only be done if:

  • it will increase knowledge of the condition causing the person’s incapacity
  • it will benefit the person or others with a similar condition, and will cause little or no risk or discomfort
  • the person does not object
  • consent has been obtained from a legal proxy or relative
  • the research has been approved by a research ethics committee

Carers and Consent (Leaflet)

This information is also available as a leaflet, which has been translated into different languages and formats - including audio, BSL, large print and easy-to-read.

Download a leaflet

Health rights support for carers and other groups

Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland

The Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland (MWC) helps to look after the rights and welfare of those with mental illness, learning disabilities and other related conditions.

They can also give you information and advice on people's rights under the Adults with Incapacity Act.

Office of the Public Guardian (Scotland)

The Office of the Public Guardian can provide information about becoming a legal proxy.

Information Commissioner’s Office (Scotland)

The Information Commissioner’s Office (Scotland) can provide more information about your rights under the Data Protection Act.

They can also be contacted if you wish to complain about how the NHS has used or protected your information.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland

Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) set the standards and quality of care that NHS is expected to meet.

Care Information Scotland

Care Information Scotland (CIS) offers a single point of care information for older people in Scotland through their website and helpline.

You can reach the CIS helpline on 0800 011 3200.

Last updated:
20 January 2023

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