Legal Issues

On this page you’ll find information about legal issues including making treatment decisions and legal consent (what age you have the legal right to make your own medical decisions), making a Will, disability and employment discrimination, and where to get legal advice.


Making decisions (legal consent)

Regardless of your age, you have rights. If you are under 18, your family is mainly responsible for your care and protection. Even though the doctor will require the consent of your parents on any treatment decisions, the law says that your opinion should be heard in all decisions affecting you. In most cases, if you are 16 years or above and clearly understand the nature, risks and likely consequences involved, then the doctor will probably allow you to make your own treatment decisions.

When you turn 18, you are legally recognised as an adult and have all of the same legal rights as adults. This means you no longer need your parents’ permission to do things and can make your own medical decisions. It also means that your personal and medical information will no longer be discussed with your family members without your consent.


Making a Will

A Will is a document that states what you want to happen to your money, possessions and children after you die. Every healthy person over 18 should make a Will – not just people who have cancer. You will have to get legal advice to do this. Some agencies offer free Wills, but check to see if they will ask for a commission or payment from your estate after your death.

If you are under 18 you can only make a Will if you are married or plan to marry. But you could still write down what you want to happen to all your stuff and ask your parents, friends or partners to keep it for you.


Powers of Attorney

If you are over 18, you may want to consider appointing a Power of Attorney.

An Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document where you appoint a person of your choice to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do so due to illness, an accident or your absence.

A medical power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to make decisions about your medical treatment if you become mentally or physically incapable of deciding for yourself.

You can read more about this here.



Disability discrimination happens when you are treated unfairly or ‘harassed’ because of your illness or its side effects. It could be:

  • not being offered a job or being fired from your job.
  • not being able to enrol at uni or TAFE.
  • not being offered the same opportunities or choices as other people in your class or course.
  • being unable to access public buildings such as libraries, hospitals and government offices.
  • not being able to rent a house or room.

It is against the law for someone to discriminate against you because of your ‘disability’. If you think that you are being treated unfairly because of your condition, it is important that you bring it up:

  • At school – talk to your year adviser, school counsellor or Principal.
  • At Uni or TAFE – talk to the Disability Liaison Officer or Student Services Officer.
  • At work – talk to your manager or the HR manager.


Employment discrimination

In Australia, it is illegal to treat someone differently or unfairly at work because of their medical history or because of a physical, mental or psychiatric disability. You do not have to tell a potential employer about your medical issues in an interview.

If you think you have been treated unfairly at work because of your cancer, you should first talk to your manager, boss or HR manager. If they refuse to take the matter further, you can seek legal advice, make a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman or lodge an official complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission (  It is free to make a complaint and you do not need a lawyer.


Getting legal advice

If you’re in a situation where you need to know more about the law or your rights, there are many organisations that can provide you with confidential advice and assistance. See Support services.