With the outbreak of COVID-19 in India, here are the top 5 patient rights you should know about:
Right to Obtain Information
Patients have the right to obtain authentic information regarding their medical condition or ailment, method of treatment and options for treatment. Patients have to be provided:
- Adequate information so that they can make an educated decision, give consent or withdraw consent for treatment.
- Medical information in a language that the patient understands, communicated to them in a manner that is not overly technical.
- Information regarding costs/additional cost of treatment or diagnosis at the completion of treatment. The patient or his caretaker has the right to receive an itemised receipt.
- Basic details of the doctors and medical staff treating the patient, including the identities, qualifications and name of the primary treating doctor/consultant.
Right to Obtain Medical Records
Patients and their caregivers also have the right to ask for medical records and reports of their case. The hospital has to make the following records available and provide it to them within 3 days:
- Originals and copies of case papers.
- Indoor patient record. For instance, this includes a repository of medical information and history of a patient.
- Investigation reports. For instance, this includes details of the methods including tests and scans done to help with the diagnosis or management of a disease.
- Discharge summary. This is a document prepared by the attending physician detailing the diagnosis, course of treatment and follow-up (if any) of a patient when he is discharged from the doctor’s care.
- Death summary, which is given to the caregiver in case of death of the patient.
Right to Emergency Medical Care
Article 21 of the Constitution of India, 1950 preserves the right to life of all persons. This also extends to your right to access emergency medical care. All state governments have the duty to preserve the lives of patients seeking medical care. Further, all medical professionals and doctors in both private and government hospitals have a responsibility and duty towards the health of the community. No patient can be turned away from receiving emergency medical care if they cannot pay for it.
Asking for Informed Consent for Medical Procedures
Consent is essential from every patient who undergoes procedures or treatments in any medical establishment. Now, this ‘consent’ must be given:
- By a person who is conscious, of sound mind and above 18 years of age.
- Free from any undue influence, threat, mistake.
- For a specific intervention. For instance, a treatment or procedure that requires written consent.
- By a person who understands the risks, benefits, and alternate treatments available.
- In a language and manner understood by all parties involved.
Right to Confidentiality, Privacy and Dignity
All medical professionals have to be patient and delicate with whomever they treat medically. Further, they have to maintain the highest level of confidentiality regarding the private details of the patient.
However, a doctor cannot reveal any secrets learnt about the patient during treatment. However, they can in the following situations:
- By a Court under the order of the presiding judge
- Where there is a serious risk to a specific person and/or community
- In case of notifiable diseases, like COVID-19
- If there is a risk of a patient spreading a communicable disease. For instance, diseases like cholera, malaria etc.
To read more, see our explainer on Patient Rights.