Have you ever been to a hospital and asked to sign an agreement before your or any accompanier’s treatment? Those agreements contain terms and conditions to safeguard hospitals and medical staff. Similarly, people do have their rights in the capacity of a patient, but little they know about it.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released a charter to protect Indian citizens from exploitation and spread awareness about their rights. This charter is based on different statutes which include the Constitution of India, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002, the Consumer Protection Act 1986, the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1940, the Clinical Establishment Act 2010, etc.
In the charter, the Rights of every patient stated:
1. Right to information
● The patient/Caretaker should be informed with the process of treatment and expected complications if any.
● The person undergoing treatment has complete rights to know the competencies of the doctor and his team working for a patient.
● The hospital needs to provide written information on the expected cost of treatment or further additions to the patients.
2. Right to records and reports
Hospital staff is bound to provide original copies of medical reports, case papers and discharge summary to the patient/caretaker. In case of death, they are bound to provide original investigations along with death summary to the caretakers.
3. Right to emergency medical care
It states that an injured person has the right to avail of medical care in the emergency section of the hospital. The patient can always avail of ambulance either from public or private hospitals. All hospitals are bound to provide emergency services without demanding advance payment. They are responsible for managing emergency wards without compromising safety.
4. Right of informed consent
Some surgical procedures can have repercussions on the patient’s body. In such cases, hospitals need to explain the treatment and risks involved in written form and take consent of the patient. In case of a lack of competency (like a minor), their caretakers can make decisions for them.
5. Right to confidentiality, human dignity, and privacy
All the documents related to a patient’s treatment should be kept confidential unless required by law. Female patients have the right to request the presence of another female if examined by a male practitioner.
6. Right to the second opinion
A patient can avail of a choice for the second opinion for treatment. In such conditions, the hospital should provide all the records without any extra fees and delays.
7. Right to transparency in rates
Medical services have many hidden costs involved people generally have some different amount in mind but at the time of final closure, sum goes beyond expectation. Due to this right, every patient needs to make aware of the cost of treatment and other facilities of the hospital clearly via brochures or booklets. Information should be cover in the local language as well.
8. Right to non-discrimination
Any person, who is not well, has complete right to get medical care regardless of caste, creed, race, social or financial background.
9. Right to safety and quality care according to standards
Patients have rights to safety and security along with medical care as per the quality norms accepted by National Accreditation Board for Hospitals (NABH) or similar. Hospital staff has a duty to keep surroundings infection-free and provide clean drinking water or food as per the BIS/FSSAI standards.
10. Right to choose alternative treatment options if available
Treatment for patients is not limited to just allopathy or surgery. In our country, we do have options like homeopathy and Ayurveda as alternative treatments and patients are free to choose any of the ways to treat themselves.
11. Right to choose the source for obtaining medicine and tests
All rights are reserved for patients to choose the medical store and diagnostic lab of their choice. Exceptions are there for life-endangering medicines like abortion kits, which is non-saleable outside any hospital.
12. Right to proper referral and transfer, which is free from perverse commercial influence
If patients avail for transfer to other hospitals for better treatment, equipment or facility then hospital staff is bound to provide all the necessary documents to the patient and forward the diagnosis to the next facility center.
13. Right to protection for patients involved in clinical trials
All clinical trials must be conducted in compliance with protocols like Good Clinical Practice Guidelines issued by Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation Directorate-General 14 Services, Govt. of India as well as all applicable statutory provisions of Amended Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules, 1945.
14. Right to protection of participants involved in biomedical and health research
If a person gives consent to be a part of medical research, he/she has complete rights to due protection. As well as the right to confidentiality and dignity should be protected for the patient. In case of any financial, physical or mental loss, patient is entitled to compensation or assistance.
15. Right to take the discharge of the patient, or receive the body of deceased from the hospital
Patients have the right to get discharge from premise and hospitals cannot delay the process on the basis of procedural grounds. The same is applicable for caretakes in case of death.
16. Right to Patient Education
Patient/Caretaker has all the rights to learn about their treatment, healthier ways to live, relevant health insurance, grievance redressal in their local language.
17. Right to be heard and seek redressal
Every patient has a right to provide feedback or raise a complaint if they have any kind of trouble. They can either approach to hospital authority in charge of complaints or going further with an official mechanism in place by Govt such as the Patient’s Rights Tribunal Forum or clinical establishments regulatory authority as per the case.
Responsibilities of patients and caretakers
Along with the rights, the Charter incorporates some basic duties of patients towards hospitals and doctors.
1. Patients should provide full details of their condition and history if any.
2. While patients have the right to participate in decisions related to treatment, but it is the patient’s duty to act together with the doctor for better treatment.
3. As a patient, it is a basic duty to follow premise rules and keep the surroundings clean.
4. People may lose dear ones and reason can be anything but patient/caretaker are not entitled under any condition to violence, damage to the property or disrespect any staff member.
5. As one’s right to have a say in the treatment decisions, it is the patient’s duty to take full responsibility for their decisions.
It’s only a year-old case where a reputed private hospital overbilled a 15 days treatment of dengue. It cost 16Lakh and further loss of life for the family. Hopefully, this charter in action will generate widespread awareness about what the public should expect from the healthcare providers and what are their rights. This is a really great step towards the betterment of services from the Govt.