Hospitals take it upon themselves to ensure the best quality of service to their patients. Unfortunately, however, mistreatment, injuries and even deaths due to malpractices and negligence are not uncommon. The situation is made even worse by the fact that most patients never know they’re protected by certain rights until it’s too late, and they’ve paid dearly for their ignorance.
If you're a patient in a hospital, keeping your rights on your fingertips will give you the voice to speak up against your doctor, nurse, caregiver, insurer, or even secretarial personnel when you feel mistreated.
- Right to Communication
Open, honest communication is a critical part of any doctor-patient relationship. According to the American Medical Association's (AMA) Code of Ethics, a physician must always deal honestly and openly with patients.
Therefore, you have the right to correct information regarding your medical situation, along with details about any mistakes, even the tiniest errors, made during treatment. Only through full disclosure will you be able to make an informed decision about future care.
- Right to Confidentiality
Law and ethics state that interaction between a physician and a patient must remain confidential. So, unless you have knowingly authorized a hospital to disclose your information to others, you should expect everything about your personal history, condition, and treatment to be kept under wraps.
Of course, confidentiality is subject to several legal, ethical and social exceptions. For instance, if a patient is at risk of harming themselves or other people, the doctor is obligated to protect the victim and notify law enforcement authorities. The confidentiality principle may also not apply in cases involving child abuse, certain communicable diseases or wounds inflicted by weapons.
Nevertheless, if you find out that your hospital has given another party access to your records without your consent, you have enough reason to take legal action. An attorney from sites such as goldwaterlawfirm.com can help you understand the situation better and make your case.
- Right to Emergency Attention
Over the years, various laws have been passed by the government to promote equal care among citizens. Although the quality of treatment you receive may vary depending on your health care plan or insurance cover, a hospital is required by law to attend to you if your condition is life-threatening. These laws prevent practitioners from not providing much-needed care to people that lack money or health insurance.
So, if you seek medical attention at emergency facilities and the institution refuses to help or offers mediocre service, you can hold it responsible and liable.
- Right to Continuous Treatment
If your medical condition requires that you undergo treatment for a lengthy duration, it is your doctor’s duty to continue providing healthcare until you no longer need it. If they’re planning to withdraw care, they must notify you in advance and arrange to transfer responsibility to another acceptable doctor.
You can charge your physician with negligent abandonment if they terminate care without appropriate referral or transfer. Although doctors can choose which patients to treat, they must do all they can to ensure patients receive optimum care.
- Right to Refuse Care
Along with the right to healthcare, a competent adult patient is free to refuse care if they clearly understand the risks and benefits of their decision. While it is usually wise to listen to your doctor, you have a right to demand that treatment is stopped or changed if it's not working, or if the side-effects are too severe to bear.
Like the right to confidentiality, however, certain exceptions regarding refusing care can occur. A patient with an altered medical status resulting from drug abuse, injury or illness can be deemed incompetent to make such decisions and may, therefore, require a legally appointed third-party to act on their behalf. Parents are also typically not permitted to deny children necessary medical care.
A hospital won't present you with the AMA Code of Medical Ethics to browse through during treatment, but that doesn't mean you can afford to remain oblivious of your rights. In addition to the five entitlements above, you also have a right to general decency, courtesy, and respect. If you suspect your physician is disregarding your rights, start assessing the situation and planning for action as soon as possible.