IntroductionConsiderable literature is available in the medical field regarding duties of doctors or the professional code that the doctor swears to uphold. But the medical man very conveniently forgets that because the doctor has duties towards the patient, the patients have certain rights. The World Medical Association has adopted both the International Code of Medical Ethics and the Declaration of Lisbon (1981).
These documents yield a set of duties and correlative rights that are far more stringent than any national law could impose on doctors in their capacity as individual citizens.
As patients are now considered as consumers as per the Consumer Protection Act 1986, here is an attempt to make the patients aware of some of their rights.
Considering the wide variety of medical services, though it is almost impossible to formulate the rights of all the patients, the following rights are affirmed.
The Patients has a right to:
- Choose his own doctor.
- Considerate and respectful care.
- Access to emergency services.
- Obtain from his physician complete current information concerning his diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and alternative therapies available, in the terms that the patient can reasonably be expected to understand.
- Know full details about the physician who is responsible for his care.
- Receive from his physician information necessary to give informed consent prior to the start of any procedure/treatment.
- Be informed of the medical consequences if he refuses a much needed procedure (informed refusal).
- Be treated in privacy and that the doctor should maintain professional secrecy.
- Receive complete information and explanation concerning the need for and alternative to any transfer to another facility. The institution to which the patient is to be transferred must first have accepted the patient for transfer.
- Consult another doctor.
- Refuse to participate in any research projects or human experimentation.
- Expect reasonable continuity of care.
- Examine and receive an explanation of his bill.
- Know what hospital rules and regulations apply to his conduct as a patient.
- Access to his hospital records.
- Complain and seek redressal.
It is better to regard the patients rights as being an inherent property of a caring, mutually respectful and properly Hippocratic relationship. In other words, the doctor’s oath to pay first consideration to the health of their patients should guarantee patient’s rights.
The medical profession must take an active role in promoting and safeguarding patient’s rights by maintaining standards for medical practice that embody the ideas of the Declaration of Lisbon. They should accept and enforce the idea that patients have a right to respectful and competent care and that the doctors have a correlative duty to provide that care at a standard that exceeds anything that common law could intelligently require.