Despite being one of the largest economies in the world, India still struggles when it comes to the healthcare sector. India, a growing hub of medical tourism were lacking a universal policy of patient rights. Now, the union health ministry has decided to implement a ‘charter of patient rights’, which explains the freedom for patients to choose medicines or diagnostic tests from sources other than those recommended by their doctors or hospitals.
The draft charter prepared by the National Human Rights Commission lists out 17 basic rights of patients and their responsibilities.
Once implemented, the charter will have to be displayed in the hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and the diagnostic laboratories. Abhay Shukla, one of the national conveners of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (a people’s health movement), who was involved with the NHRC in drafting the document, said there was a need for a consolidated comprehensive document on patients rights in India. “Although some States have adopted the national Clinical Establishments Act 2010 and certain others have enacted their own State-level legislation to regulate hospitals, there is no consolidated document on patients’ rights that can be followed by all States uniformly,” he said.
Following are the 17 patient rights as per the charter.

1. Right to Information
The first right explains that every patient has the right to know adequate information regarding their illness, diagnosis, proposed investigation and possible complications. It also explains the rights of the patient to know about the exact cost of his treatment and the identity and professional status of every doctor and assistant who treats them.

2. Right to records and reports
This right grants the patient to access the originals or copies of case papers, indoor patient records and investigation reports. Investigation reports have to be made available to them within 24 hours of admission or 72 hours of discharge. In case of death, the hospital is responsible to provide the documents of investigations and tests to the patient’s relatives.

3. Right to emergency medical care
Under article 21 of the constitution, an injured person can get emergency help from any government or private hospitals. It is the hospital’s responsibility to ensure the provision of such emergency care through its doctors and staff rendered promptly without compromising on the quality and safety of the patients.

4. Right to Informed consent.
A consent must be sought from the patient before any potentially hazardous risky test/treatments. Before providing the protocol consent form to the patient, the doctors should explain the risks, consequences and procedure of the investigation or surgery in detail in a simple language.

5. Right to confidentiality, human dignity and privacy
The code of conduct direct the doctors to hold information regarding the health condition and treatment plan in strict confidentiality from everyone except the patient and their caretakers unless it is an exceptional case where sharing this information is “in the interest of protecting other or due to public health considerations.”
Female patients have the right to the presence of a female person examination by a male practitioner.

6. Right to the second opinion
Every patient has the right to seek the second opinion from an appropriate clinician of patients’ or caregivers’ choice. The hospital management has a duty to respect the patient’s right to second opinion, and should provide to the patient’s caregivers all necessary records and information required for seeking such opinion without any extra cost or delay.

7. Right to transparency in rates and care as per prescribed rates
Every patient and their caregivers have the right to information on the rates to be charged by the hospital for each type of service provided and facilities available on a prominent display board and a brochure. They have the right to receive a detailed bill before payment. It is the duty of the hospital to display key rates at a conspicuous place in local as well as the English language and to make available the detailed schedule of rates in a booklet form to all patients/caregivers.

8. Right to non-discrimination
Every person has the right to receive the treatment irrespective of caste, gender, type of illness or any other factors.

9. Right to safety and quality care according to the standards
According to this provision, every patient has the right to safety and security on the hospital premises. They have a right to be provided with care in an requisite cleanliness, infection control measures, safe drinking water as per BIS/FSSAI Standards and sanitation facilities.

10. Right to choose alternative treatment options if available
Patients and their caretakers have the right to choose alternative treatments after carefully considering all aspects of the situation.

11. Right to choose the source for obtaining medicines or tests
When any medicine is prescribed by a doctor or a hospital, the patients and their caregivers have the right to choose any registered pharmacy of their choice to purchase them. Similarly, when a particular investigation is advised by a doctor or a hospital, the patient and his caregiver have a right to obtain this investigation from any registered diagnostic centre/laboratory having qualified personnel and accredited by National Accreditation Board for Laboratories.

12. Right to proper referral and transfer, which is free from perverse commercial influences
A patient has the right to continuity of care, and the right to be duly registered at the treatment has, as well as at any subsequent facilities where care.

13. Right to protection for patients involved in clinical trials
Every person/patient who is approached to participate in a clinical trial has a right to due protection. All clinical trials must be conducted in compliance with the protocols and good clinical practice guidelines issued by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and other applicable provisions.

14. Right to protection of participants involved in biomedical and health research
Every patient who takes part in a biomedical research can be considered as a research participant and every research participant has the right to due protection in this context. Their right to dignity, privacy and confidentiality needs to be upheld even during the research. If the participant suffers direct physical, psychological, social, legal or economic harm, they are eligible for financial or other assistance by the hospital.

15. Right to take discharge of the patient, or receive the body of deceased from the hospital
According to this provision, the patient has the right to take the discharge and cannot be detained in a hospital, on procedural grounds such as a dispute in payment of hospital charges. Similarly, caretakers have the right to the dead body of a patient who had been treated in a hospital and the dead body cannot be detailed on procedural grounds, including nonpayment/dispute regarding payment of hospital charges against wishes of the caretakers.

16. Right to patient education
Each and every patient have the right to get information on Major facts about their condition, healthy living practices, their rights and responsibilities, the health insurance schemes relevant to them and so on.

17. Right to be heard and seek redressal
Patients and their caregivers have the right to give feedback comment or complaint regarding the health care they received or currently receiving. Patients and caregivers have the right to seek redressal in case they are aggrieved, on account of infringement of any of the above-mentioned rights in this charter. This may be done by lodging a complaint with an official designated for this purpose by the hospital and further with an official mechanism constituted by the government.

Source: 1.

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