You must not be discriminated against when receiving healthcare. The prohibition of discrimination applies equally to state and municipal, as well as private medical institutions and service providers.

Healthcare and medical services may be provided by state or municipal health care institutions, family doctors or private medical practices. All healthcare service providers are under a duty not to discriminate against you because of who you are. This applies to professional medical staff (doctors or nurses), as well as administrative staff (receptionists), ambulance drivers, clinic managers and other personnel employed in healthcare.

Discrimination in healthcare may include the refusal to accept you as a patient, harassing you by using abusive, derogatory language or providing lower quality medical care services.

example If all younger patients receive priority treatment for no apparent reason, while older patients are required to wait in queue for a much longer period, it may violate the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of age.

In Estonia, the Equal Treatment Act and Gender Equality Act apply also to the area of healthcare, in combination providing protection from discrimination on the grounds of sex or gender, and race or ethnic origin. In addition, the Constitution of the Republic of Estonia prohibits discrimination in general regardless of the ground.

In some situations, differential treatment may be allowed with regard to third country nationals, who are not EU nationals. For example, some healthcare services might charge a higher price or they may not be paid by the state. However, such exceptions should be established by law, be necessary and proportionate, and should not lead to discrimination on other grounds, such as race or ethnic origin.

What human rights violation may there be?

The prohibition of discrimination

The prohibition of discrimination may have been violated if you have been denied medical care or you have received medical services of poor quality only because you are of a certain race, gender, ethnic, origin or possess other characteristics that are prohibited grounds of discrimination.

Right to health and prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment

If you are unable to access medical care or receive poor quality medical services, it may lead to a violation of your right to health. In the most serious cases, it may lead to a violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or even torture.

Right to life

If a person died because he/she did receive the necessary medical care or inadequate medical care was provided, it may have been a violation of their right to life.

How to complain

If you believe that you may have been discriminated against by a healthcare service provider, private or public, you may file a complaint to the Health Board, Expert committee on quality of health services or to the civil court. You may first turn to the health service provider itself. 

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in access to medical care, including the fee and waiting time for medical care, you may also submit a complaint to the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, and afterwards, to the administrative court

Additionally, there is a possibility to turn to the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner or to the Chancellor of Justice for their opinion.

Read more about how to complain.


Last updated 23/01/2019