The Wise Patient's Guide to Rights and Responsibilities

man talking to doctor from hospital bed

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When we patients access healthcare, we do so expecting we have certain rights. The wiser patients also realize that along with those patient's rights, we have responsibilities, too.

As Americans, we have a sense of being entitled to certain rights based on our federal Bill of Rights and judicial heritage. When those rights are violated, we have the ability to pursue justice through the legal system.

Patients' rights are very different. There are few rights that are clearly spelled out, except those that regard privacy or the ability to obtain our medical records, as determined through the federal HIPAA Act. Individual states have enacted other laws that usually impact only hospital care.

More often, individual facilities (like hospitals) or physician practices will offer up their own list of patients' rights. You may see them posted proudly on the wall or their website. They may use them to reassure you that they recognize and support your role in your healthcare, as well as to focus their staff on ensuring your rights. But it is unclear as to whether those prominently posted lists could ever be enforced if there is a problem. They may be simple goals and platitudes without any teeth when something goes wrong.

However, there are a number of rights that are accepted as being true, even though they may not be officially recorded anywhere. Some are simply based on respect. Others are based on our responsibilities as human beings. Others have evolved as the need warrants.

Consider These Patients' Rights

The entitlement of patients' rights for Americans is accompanied by patients' responsibilities as well. In order to get the best care, and find our most successful medical outcomes, we must adhere to these responsibilities.

Consider These Patients' Responsibilities

No discussion of patients' rights and responsibilities would be complete without a discussion of those rights we may believe we are entitled to, but, in fact, are not rights for healthcare in the US.

Consider These Missing Healthcare Rights

  • Access to Healthcare: That's right — in America today, we do not have the right to get healthcare. This is not the case in some other countries, where it is considered to be a right.
  • The Right to Total Privacy of Our Medical Records

Wise patients understand all three: their rights, their responsibilities, and the rights they don't have. Understanding them will make it easier to get the care and outcomes they seek.

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