The Supreme Court has severely criticized the Manipur government over the ‘pathetic’ conditions of Covid care centres in the State. In this context, let us look at some of the major rights that patients enjoy in India.
1. 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. Hospitals must provide patients:
- Enough information to make an educated decision, give consent or withdraw consent for treatment.
- Medical information in easy-to-understand, less technical language that the patient understands.
- Information about the treatment costs and diagnosis. Hospitals must give an itemised receipt.
- Basic details of the doctors and medical staff treating the patient, including the identity, qualification and name of the primary treating doctor/consultant.
2. Right to Obtain Medical Records
Patients and their caregivers have the right to ask for medical records and reports of their case. The hospital must make the following records available and provide it to them within three days:
- Originals and copies of case papers.
- Indoor patient record, including a repository of medical information and history.
- Investigation reports, including details of the methods, tests and scans the hospital does to help with the diagnosis or management of a disease.
- Discharge summary (a document prepared by the attending physician detailing the diagnosis, course of treatment and follow-up (if any)).
- Death summary, which the hospital gives to the caregiver in case the patient dies.
3. Right to Emergency Medical Care
Article 21 of the Constitution of India gives all people the right to life, including the right to access emergency medical care. All State governments have a 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.
4. Asking for Informed Consent for Medical Procedures
Consent is essential from every patient who undergoes procedures or treatments in any medical establishment. Consent must be voluntarily given:
- By a person who is conscious, of sound mind and above 18 years of age.
- Without any undue influence or threat.
- For specific treatments or procedures that require written consent.
- By a person who understands the risks, benefits, and alternate treatments available.
- In a language and manner which everyone involved understands.
5. Right to Confidentiality, Privacy and Dignity
All medical professionals must maintain the highest level of confidentiality about the private details of the patient. A doctor cannot reveal any secrets learnt about the patient during treatment. However, this does not apply:
- If a court orders them to reveal the information.
- 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.
To know more, read our explainer on Patient Rights.