Patients' Rights

Patients in the care of medical professionals and health care facilities are entitled to certain rights that protect their well-being. In this article, we’ll define “patients’ rights” and explain their role in personal injury and medical malpractice law.

Key Takeaways

  • Patients' rights are the rights medical patients are entitled to
  • Patients' rights may be guaranteed by federal law, state law, or healthcare facilities
  • Examples of patients' rights include the right to confidentiality, fair treatment, and autonomy over medical decisions

What Are Patients’ Rights?

Patients’ rights are a set of rights that medical patients are thought to be entitled to. Some are guaranteed by federal law, some by state law, and others are promised by specific healthcare facilities.  

The concept of patients’ rights is based on two premises:

  1. Patients have rights that they do not forfeit by entering into the care of a doctor or health care facility
  2. Doctors and health care facilities may fail to recognize, protect, or assert a patient’s rights

As such, the goal of patients’ rights is to protect human beings and their comfort, dignity, emotions, and autonomy even when they are in the vulnerable position of being in the care of others.

Examples of Patients’ Rights

There are a number of patients’ rights protected by law. One of the most important is informed consent, which refers to the right to be informed about a procedure or treatment and consent to it before it can be performed.

It is also common for states to have confidentiality laws protecting patients from having their private medical information shared by the doctors and practitioners whose care they are in without permission.

Another patient right protected by the law is the right to use an advance directive to indicate what kind of end-of-life care one might want in the event that they are unable to communicate this information themselves.

Examples of other patient rights include:

  • A right to receive care without discrimination over race, color, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or national origin
  • A right to high-quality care and professional standards
  • A right to refuse drugs, treatments, and procedures
  • A right to avoid unnecessary discomfort

Patients' Rights in Personal Injury Law

Patients’ rights can play a big role in personal injury cases when medical records come into play. Medical records are an important piece of evidence that both the plaintiff and the defendant will want to take into consideration.

You may authorize your own attorney to access your medical records, but you should know that the other side may also put in a request for your records. You have the right to deny this request, but they may pursue a medical record subpoena in order to obtain it anyway.

Each state has its own laws regarding the release of medical records for legal purposes. When requesting access to medical records, it’s important to be aware of these laws. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to protect your right to confidentiality and properly navigate the process of obtaining your health care records.

Patients’ Rights in Medical Malpractice 

Patients’ rights play a pivotal role in the legal area of medical malpractice which focuses on the failures of doctors and health care professionals to meet the expected standard of care. If a medical practitioner violates one of your rights as a patient, you may be entitled to compensation for damages.

This includes specific rights such as informed consent and confidentiality, but generally applies to the larger right any person has to be compensated for harm caused by another’s negligence, which is called medical malpractice when done on the part of medical practitioners.

This includes a variety of situations such as:

  • Medication errors
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Unnecessary procedures
  • Surgical errors
  • Premature discharge
  • Disregarding patient history

If your rights as a patient have been violated, a medical malpractice attorney can help you build a case and receive compensation.

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