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This study explored patients' experiences of participation and non-participation in their health care. A questionnaire-based survey method was used. Content analysis showed that conditions for patient participation occurred when information was provided not by using standard procedures but based on individual needs and accompanied by explanations, when the patient was regarded as an individual, when the patient's knowledge was recognized by staff, and when the patient made decisions based on knowledge and needs, or performed self-care. Thus, to provide conditions for true patient participation, professionals need to recognize each patient's unique knowledge and respect the individual's description of his or her situation rather than just inviting the person to participate in decision making.