Patient's Bill of Rights

There are eight key areas related to patient rights within the medical office.


The Right to Emergency Treatment

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Healthcare professionals have a responsibility to provide medical treatment to any person with an emergency medical condition. Patients have the right to emergency medical treatment regardless of their ability to pay.

According to EMTALA or the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, an emergency medical condition is defined as "a condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in placing the individual's health [or the health of an unborn child] in serious jeopardy, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of bodily organs."


The Right to Respect

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The patient's right to respect, otherwise known as nondiscrimination, is the right to be treated with dignity and respect and is not to be discriminated against for any reason regardless of sex, race, age, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran or military status, religion or any other basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law.

This also means that patients have the right to be treated humanely and never be subjected to degrading treatment by any ​healthcare professional.


The Right of Informed Consent

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The most important right that a patient has is the right of informed consent. A patient should only consent to medical treatment if they have sufficient information about their diagnosis and all treatment options available in terms he/she can understand.

Before a physician can begin any course of treatment, the physician must make the patient aware of what he plans to do. For any course of treatment that is above routine medical procedures, the physician must disclose as much information as possible so the patient may make an informed decision about his/her care.


The Right to Refuse Treatment

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It's a given that patients have certain rights including the right to medical treatment in emergency situations, but they also have the right to refuse medical treatment. From an ethical perspective, physicians and other healthcare professionals have the responsibility or duty to protect the life and health of a patient. However, ultimately, the patient has the final decision regarding the medical treatment they receive, even when it means they choose to decline such treatment.


The Right to Choose Providers

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All patients have the right to choose the provider who renders healthcare services to them. This is typically in reference to patient referrals from physicians and hospitals. Physicians and hospitals often refer patients to specialists, home health care, long-term facilities or other healthcare professionals for further care outside of their expertise or ability to provide continuity of care. 

Many times physician or hospital relationships violate a patients right to choose the provider of their choice.


The Right to Privacy

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One of the most basic rights that a patient has is the right to privacy. Patients have the right to decide to whom, when, and to what extent their private individually identifiable health information is disclosed. This information includes but is not limited to medical diagnosis, treatment plans, prescriptions, health insurance information, genetic information, clinical research records, and mental health records.

For patients, a lack of privacy could lead to personal embarrassment, public humiliation, and discrimination.


The Right to Appeal

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Patients have the right to a fair review or appeal of any complaint against physicians, hospitals, or any other healthcare provider. The right to appeal includes complaints regarding:

  • the adequacy of treatment
  • the actions of healthcare personnel
  • wait times
  • operating hours
  • billing and payment issues

Patient Responsibilities

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Patients have a number of responsibilities to the medical office including active participation in their treatment plan, timely resolution of their financial obligation and respectful interaction with all staff.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Emergency Physicians. EMTALA fact sheet.

  2. American Medical Association. Patient rights.

  3. American Medical Association. Informed consent.

  4. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Health information privacy.

By Joy Hicks
Joy B. Hicks, PhD, MBA, is an expert on the health insurance industry with over 15 years of experience in patient financial services.