Patient Rights - FindLaw
Understanding patient rights is one key to making important health care-related decisions. State and federal laws protect patients' interests in various areas, including patient privacy and informed consent.
This Findlaw section provides resources on patient rights and long-term care. You'll find articles on planning for medical care, reading the fine print on prescription medication bottles, evaluating online health information, determining whether you need long-term care insurance, understanding the medical marijuana laws in your state, and more.
While specific patient rights may vary from state to state, organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) recognize that the physician-patient relationship is collaborative with contributions from both parties. Understanding patient rights is a foundation for this collaborative relationship. Patients and their caregivers strengthen this collaboration when they seek care. Physicians strengthen this collaboration through patient advocacy and respecting patients' rights.
Patient Bill of Rights
A patient's bill of rights is a document many patients or their caregivers receive during a health care encounter. Consider, for example, a person who visits the nearest emergency room to seek care. That person should receive the facility's patient bill of rights as part of the registration process. This document will identify the rights and responsibilities of all patients at that facility or health care system.
There is no uniform patient bill of rights in the United States (U.S.). The patient bill of rights you receive in a hospital or an outpatient setting may vary from hospital to hospital and state to state. Despite this, a few rights remain constant in most clinical settings or health care facilities. These rights include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Right to privacy
- Right to respectful care consistent with your beliefs
- Right to complete information from your provider about your medical condition or treatment plan
- Right to make an informed decision
- Right to refuse treatment
- Right to copies of your medical records
- Right to a second opinion
- Right to continuity of care
- Right to make advance directives
In many health care facilities, the patient bill of rights often includes contact information for the facility's patient advocate. The patient advocate can help patients navigate patient rights issues.
One of the main issues that arises in health care law involves patient privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits health care providers from disclosing patients' medical records without consent. Patients have legal options if an improper disclosure occurs. First, they can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Second, depending on the laws of their state, they can seek compensation by filing a suit for invasion of privacy.
All patients have a right to dignity and respect from health care professionals. This includes respect for their beliefs. Consider, for example, people whose faith prohibits blood transfusions. Everyone involved in that patient's care must respect those beliefs.
Patients and their caregivers rely on healthcare professionals in their decision-making process. Complete information helps patients make choices for their care and well-being.
Informed consent laws require health service providers to explain the potential risks and benefits of medical treatment. This includes the medical consequences of treatment. The provider must then obtain the patient's written consent before proceeding. If a provider's failure to do so harms a patient, the provider risks liability for medical malpractice.
Health care providers cannot force patients to receive care. The provider must give the patient all the necessary information to make an informed decision and respect it. For example, an informed cancer patient can refuse treatment, and their provider must respect that decision.
Most health care facilities have procedures where patients can request copies of their medical records. Check with your provider for more information if you need copies of your medical records.
Patients do not have to accept their provider's information. They can ask for a second opinion or seek it out independently.
According to the American Medical Association, patients have the right to continuity of care. Under this patient right, providers must cooperate in coordinating with other health care professionals and not abruptly discontinue care. At in-patient mental health facilities, the patient's providers will make appropriate referrals to outpatient providers to ensure minimal disruptions in care.
Patients can communicate their health care preferences through advance directives like a living will. Patients can select someone, like a family member, to make health care decisions.
Planning for Long-Term Care
As the population ages, many Americans and their caregivers face important long-term care decisions. Before making arrangements, however, you should educate yourself about the options for older Americans. In addition to information on patient rights, this section provides resources on planning for long-term care, including articles on durable power of attorney and the risks and benefits of long-term care insurance.
Get Legal Help
If you or a loved one is facing issues concerning patient rights, a healthcare attorney can help. They are experts in health care law and can provide sound legal advice. Speak to an experienced health care attorney today.
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