When a patient comes to a hospital for care, he entrusts his life and health into the hands of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals, hoping to receive respectful and adequate treatment. Medical workers are responsible for promoting wellness of their patients in a number of ways, including both provision of healthy nutrition and surgical procedures. The healthcare ethical standards claim that the major objective of any medical professional is to heal and benefit patients without causing unnecessary pain or harm. The rights of patients are an indispensable and inevitable part of any healthcare infrastructure. As stipulated in “The Patients’ Bill of Rights “, every patient has the right to access medical information and to keep it private, the right for informed consent, the right for emergency services, the right to take part in treatment decisions, the right to receive care without discrimination, and so on. (AHA, 1998).
Every patient has the right to be treated with respect, regardless of one`s financial status, social class, race, gender or type of health problems. This involves, at minimum, the right for equitable access to quality healthcare, the right for privacy and confidentiality of the medical information, the right for informed consent before using a medical intervention, and the right for a safe clinical environment. All healthcare professionals are expected to treat patients with empathy and kindness. Whether a patient is suffering from cancer or appendicitis, one should be cared for with understanding and sincerity (The Unites States Health and Human Services Department , 2010).
Any patient has the right to make decisions about the course of his or her treatment, as well as to know about possible alternative treatments. Being a competent adult, a patient has the right to refuse any treatment, even in case this would aggravate one`s condition. No healthcare professional can perform tests, procedures or treatments on a prospective patient until one has made a voluntary decision to be treated. Such a decision is often referred to as an informed consent. The patient is asked to sign a form of consent, giving clear explanations of benefits and risks prior to the patient’s participation in treatment. The key condition of the informed consent is that it has to be voluntary. This means that the patient should not be under the influence of strong medications, be under threat or under extreme duress. The patient has to be adequate and understanding the information needed to agree for a proposed treatment. Every patient has the right to possess information regarding his or her proposed treatment, such as: descriptions of the procedure and assessment of risks and benefits connected with it; description of any possible side effects; descriptions of any alternative treatments; the likely outcome in case the treatment is refused and the probability of success (AHA, 1998).
The HIPAA Act of 1996 provides all patients in the United States with a right to obtain any of their personal medical information, including medical records, test results, medical history, etc. The patient may need this information to make decisions about further treatment, to determine whether to change a doctors or a health plan, or for any other reason. The same act also outlines the right for the privacy of personal medical record. Any kind of release of protected healthcare information generally requires a specific authorization from the patient. Thus, any disclosure for the sake of treatment, healthcare operations or payment should be authorized. Such authorization has to be specific, time limited and event driven (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2013)
American patients have a number of rights. Some of them are legal rights, others simply based on respect, dignity and our responsibilities as human beings. Being a good patient doesn`t mean being a silent one, thus every patient is responsible for knowing one`s rights and ensuring the quality of care one needs, wants and deserves.