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.
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.
Bill of Rights
∑ I have a right to access quality health care at an affordable
∑ 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
∑ 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.
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
∑ 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.
of a patient
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.
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
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.
I am responsible for settling all financial obligations in a timely
I am responsible for my actions if I refuse to receive treatment or follow
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.
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.