Chapter 22: Your Rights as a Patient
When men say they have rights, they generally mean that they are suffering wrongs - J.A.Spender
The Patients Bill of Rights, has been popularized in the USA by the American Hospital Association and all these rights should apply to all patients, all over the world! Patients in India are so used to being at the "receiving end" of medical care, that they sometimes forget that they do have rights! All patients have the right to:
Medical staff should respect your dignity and be sensitive to your needs. Treatment must be provided regardless of your race, religion, national origin, or, in emergencies, your ability to pay.
You must be given complete, up-to-date information about your condition, treatment and chances for recovery. You also have the right to review your medical records - after all, they are your property!
You must give written permission for any procedure, test or treatment. Before you can do this, your physician must explain to you, in language you understand the following:
- The advantages and risks of the procedure.
- Any possible side-effects.
- The consequences of not receiving treatment.
- How long recovery can be expected to take.
Personal or medical details of your condition and treatment may not be needlessly disclosed to others at any time. In most cases, you must give permission before anyone not directly involved in your case is given information about you.
All communications and medical records (messages between you and your physician, hospital charts, test results, X-rays, etc.) must be kept private. You must give permission for the release of your records for specific purposes in most cases.
Acceptance for Treatment
If you request treatment at a hospital, you shouldnt be refused or sent to another hospital without a good reason. The decision should be based on:
- Whether the hospital is qualified to treat your condition.
- Whether the necessary equipment is available.
- Whether treating you could potentially endanger others.
- Whether your condition requires immediate treatment.
- Whether treatment will be of value to you.
Information about Affiliation
You have the right to know about any financial links your hospital and physician may have with other institutions. For example, if your physician recommends treatment at a specific institution, you have a right to ask if he or she is affiliated with that institution.
Acceptance or Refusal of Treatment
As a legally competent adult, you have the right to accept or refuse any medical treatment.
Refusal of Experimental Treatment
In some cases, physicians may recommend experimental therapies, medication or other courses of treatment. You must be told if your proposed treatment is experimental and what the potential results and risks are. You may refuse to participate in any research if you do not wish to - its your choice!
Knowledge of Hospital Regulations
You should be told about the rules which govern conduct in the hospital - for example, regulations about visitors, smoking, meals, movement in the hospital, etc.
Information about Continuing Care
Before scheduling any treatment, you should be told when and where a physician will be available. This may save you the trouble and expense of long waits or long trips for treatment. You must also be told what treatment may be needed after discharge from the hospital.
Information about Your Medical Fees
You have a right to receive a copy of your bill and to know the charges for each service you receive.
Remember, that you can demand your rights, only if you are aware of them!