Patient Rights: Protecting Yourself from Medical Errors

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When our health is at risk, we rely on medical professionals to alleviate pain or discomfort and help us get better. However, in between difficult medical terms and the number of forms that need filling out, you might think that you don’t have any say when it comes to your treatment. Fortunately, the opposite is true.

We humans have basic rights that guarantee us the means to satisfy our basic needs and are also based on values like independence, equality, respect, fairness, and dignity. When we’re sick, however, these rights become a critical part of our recovery process, and most importantly, our survival. This is why hospitals ensure that patients have these rights during their stay. These are patient rights.

Simply put, they are a list of guarantees that hospitals need to provide those receiving medical care, some of which are under federal law. This list ensures the right to your having autonomy over medical decisions, information, and fair treatment as a patient.

The Importance of Knowing Your Patient Rights

Being aware of your rights is important in any situation. Knowing your patient rights will help you feel more confident in the healthcare system, knowing that you can voice out any problems or discomforts you may have towards your treatment and that the hospital can adjust to your needs. Simply put, this can help you ensure that you get quality medical treatment suited for your needs and protect yourself from any medical errors.

Your Rights as Patient

Ensure that you know these rights when you’re getting any medical treatment, as they apply to most, if not all, hospitals and even nursing homes. If any of these rights get abused or neglected, this becomes negligent behavior, which can be grounds for medical malpractice.

The Right to Proper Medical Treatment

No matter what race, gender, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, country of origin, or any other identity you choose to associate with, you have the right to receive quality health care without any discrimination. You should be allowed access to any treatment or accommodation that is medically indicated or available.

The Right to Respect and Dignity

Nobody wants to be disrespected or harassed, especially when they’re not in the best state. You, as a patient, have the right to receive respectful care and treatment from your doctors, nurses, or any other medical professional, regardless of their medical challenges or their means.

The Right to Acquire Your Medical Records

The HIPAA Act of 1996 gives you the right to obtain, read, and copy any medical records or documents related to your treatment. This includes any test results, doctor’s notes, and any other documents. If you see any information on your medical record that isn’t accurate, you also have the right to ask your doctor to correct these errors.

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The Right to Keep Your Medical Records Private

Another part of the HIPAA Act is the right to deny access to people who you think would have access to your medical records, no matter what the purpose is. You can also, with written permission, allow a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver to access your documents.

The Right to Informed Consent

Every patient has the right to ask questions and get information from medical professionals before any test, procedure, or treatment. With this in mind, it’s important for any medical practitioner to ask you or a guardian to sign a consent form before starting any test or procedure. This consent form is called informed consent. Your doctor should also explain the procedure, treatment, or test to you in a clear and detailed manner, along with their respective benefits or risks.

The Right to Information

As long as it’s about your diagnosis, treatment, or prognosis, you have the right to ask any question or request any information you need from your doctor. This includes knowing what kind of treatment you’ll be receiving, any important information about your condition, etc. This information should be clearly communicated to you, and if you need it, you also have the right to obtain a second opinion.

The Right to Refuse Treatment

There may be times when you might disagree with the treatment that a doctor offers to help alleviate your condition. When this happens, you have the right to refuse treatment. However, this depends on several factors, such as whether you can make sound decisions or are in the right state of mind when making that decision.

When health is as important as ever, it’s important to exercise your rights when you feel uncomfortable with any medical decisions made for you. If any medical professional or facility violates your rights in any way, it’s best to discuss with a hospital patient advocate or your state’s proper authorities.

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