Overview: Know Your Patient's Bill of Rights

Many of today’s medical negligence and clinical negligence cases could have never gotten off the drawing board had a patient known his/her health care rights and what questions to have asked before and during treatment. The best way to decrease the chances of having to go through this experience is to stay informed and ask questions of just what are the health care rights of a patient.

The relationship between a patient and the medical community should be one that is open, honest and informative. Knowledge is invaluable for increasing one’s level of confidence to stand up for the rights of a patient.  Asking questions is primordial. Below are just some of the many aspects of the health care rights of a patient which any good responsible health care professional or facility should provide all persons seeking help. It is time to take control of one’s own health care – it was noted in the Patient Safety in American Hospital Study 2008, almost a quarter million deaths were found to have been preventable.

Some Health Care Rights of a Patient

* Patient has a right to know the type of treatment he/she will receive – in their own language.

* Patient has a right to make decisions about their own health care – including refusing care.

* Patient has the right to know the names of their care givers.

* Patient has the right to be treated for pain and in a safe manner.

* Patient has the right to know when something “goes wrong” in the treatment.

* Patient has the right to know all of the current medications give and taken.

* Patient has the right to be heard and treated with respect. (1)

What Needs To Be Done To Keep You and Your Loved Ones Safe and Informed?

Have an advocate/companion with you when you go to the hospital or clinic. If you don’t have someone with you, ask to have a patient advocate sit with you during your visit. Having an extra set of ears and support can help decrease mistakes and misunderstandings. An elderly person, especially, should never go or be left alone.

If a patient ever feels uncomfortable with the recommendations from the health care provider, trusting one’s instinct, or “gut feeling”, is primordial. Get a second opinion. It is the right of a patient. (2)

Establish a relationship with your health care team. Make sure they know you by name and have your clear medical history. Have a list of questions ready for your medical team, if possible.

Make sure you have a list of your current medication and dosing. If you are given medication, make sure you recognize the medication. If you don’t recognize it, you have the right to ask questions.  Medications sometimes look alike and even sound similar. Have your advocate/companion take notes on your medication and any changes that are made.

Especially concerning tests being performed, ask these questions:

* For what is the test; how is it being done and will it hurt.

* How accurate is the test; is it necessary; can your case be determined any other way.

* How many times has the health care professional done the test; what are the risks; what will the test reveal and what is the cost of the tests.

It is difficult to remember everything that is said in the hospital or clinic. Write things down it could save your life.  Above all, if you do not understand a treatment, procedure or terminology, ask, and ask once again. Your health care rights are vital and your life may depend on your questions.



(1) Dept. of Health and Human Services

(2) Patient Safety in American Hospital Study 2008, Dept. of Health and Human Services

Authored by Beverly Anne Sanchez, 2010