A Bill of your medical rights


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Category: Health Care Date: 10 Sep 00

Ira Mathur presents, on behalf of all patients of this country, a draft Patients Bill of Rights and responsibilities based on discussions with doctors. She advises patients to carry it to doctors and medical institutions as a guide.


This Bill of Rights will help you sift good doctors from bad. The good doctors will welcome it. The others will see it as a threat to their supremacy, at which point, you will know they care more about their ego and pockets than they do about your health, and you will be able to make the informed choice to walk out of their offices.


Patients Bill of Rights

     I have a right to access quality health care at an affordable price.

     I have a right to receive health care in a courteous manner and while maintaining my dignity as a person.

     I have a right to be given details of my disease, and prognosis.

     I have a right to know the benefits and risks of my procedures.

     I have a right to know the track record of a physician doing a surgical procedure on me.

     I have a right to know if there are alternate comparable procedures with comparable results and to be given risk-benefit ratios of procedures.

     I have a right to a second opinion.

     I have a right to an explanation of costs from a hospital, doctor and pharmacy, and a usual and customary schedule of fees for everything from a lumpectomy and cataract, to biopsy and appendectomy.

     I have a right to know what itís worth. I want a breakdown of costs, so as a customer, I can shop around for the highest value and lowest costs available. If Iím paying more I want to know if Iím paying for your high success rate, or your above-average performance as a physician. I have a right to ask questions such as: Why does a normal delivery cost $7,000 in one institution and $1,800 in the next? Why does a blood test cost $200 in this lab and $900 in the next? In this era of generic drugs, I have a right to be told Painol does the same job as a brand name like Panadol but is quarter the price.

     I have a right to know if you, the doctor, has a vested, financial interest in the facility in which you treat me or in any of your recommended pharmaceutical or lab services.

     I have a right to be seen within half an hour of my appointment. My time is as valuable as the doctorís. I understand there will be exceptions when doctors have to deal with emergencies but when you regularly book me in for a 4 pm appointment and see me at 11 pm, you are contravening the basic rights of a patient.

     I have a right to be given detailed explanations on subscription medication, and any side effects it may have. Studies show patients are not compliant or regular with medication because we do not understand what we are taking and why.

     I have a right to be told how your prescription is going to interact with other medication I am on. For instance, I have a right to be told mixing heart medicine and Viagra could produce a nitrate oxide reaction that could kill me. This is especially important for the elderly who tend to be on many prescription drugs simultaneously.

     I have a right to be informed of my test results and proposed changes of medication in a timely manner.

     In public hospitals, I have a right to examine a waiting list for operations that should be updated daily by administrators. For instance, if a dialysis machine is down I have a right to know when I can expect it to be operational.

     I have a right to know the identity and position of all health service practitioners, who should at all times wear badges so their identity and position is known.

     Before being discharged from a medical institution, I have a right to be advised of my continuing needs and follow-up care.

     I have a right to access my medical records if I am taking a second opinion.

     I have a right to file a complaint when I consider it infringed. I have a right to have this complaint investigated and the preliminary results communicated within ten days.

     I have the right to refuse treatment.

     I have the right to be informed about, and participate in, decisions related to my health and treatment.

     I have a right to privacy and confidentiality in health institutions. This includes the right to request that a person of the same sex be present during medical procedures where patients are required to undress.

     I have a right to know, in the absence of laws requiring you to be relicensed every seven years, if you are keeping up to date with medicine and what continuing medical programmes you are on.


Responsibilities of a patient

1. I am responsible for providing complete information on my current complaints, previous diseases, hospitalisations, names of drugs, and other matters related to my health. I also am responsible for reporting any unexplained changes in my condition to my doctor.


2. I am responsible for following the doctorís orders regarding my medication. This includes: (a) Taking medication on time and for the full course, even if I feel better; (b) Reporting side effects to my doctor


3. I am responsible for educating myself about basic health care, which includes: (a) only going to one doctor at a time; (b) understanding that twice the medication will not get me better twice as fast, (and may actually kill me); (c) keeping doctorís appointments; (d) returning for after-care appointments after a surgical procedure; (e) never sharing prescribed medication with other people; (f) educating myself on primary health care; (g) educating myself on my ailments and all prescribed drugs I may be on.


4. I am responsible for settling all financial obligations in a timely manner.


5. I am responsible for my actions if I refuse to receive treatment or follow doctorís orders.


In the absence of any laws to protect us, we, the patients of Trinidad and Tobago, have no choice but to protect ourselves as best as we can against possible abuse of power by medical practitioners.


To do this, we must educate ourselves; ask the right questions of the right people. And we must understand in this case, asking questions mean for us the difference between life and death.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur