Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In Civics and in Health

You Have Rights. You Know. Here's How.

Many of us are not detectives, we know that. But, then again, DETECTIVES who've had a run-in with their neighbourhood hospital may have noticed one way that suspected criminals are treated better than patients : you can't get thrown in the pokey(that is prison) without learning your rights.

Yet you can spend days or weeks in a hospital without anyone talking to you clearly about your basic guaranteed entitlements and privileges. Sure, these things are mentioned in various places in the armload of forms you're given when you're admitted, but are you in right state of mind to read them when you've just been admitted to the hospital?

Most of us just skim these papers, at best. That's not good; if there's ever a time when you really need all the protection that you're entitled to, it's when you're EMBROILED in the thick of the medical system.

We and most of us don't ask about our patient rights when we're undergoing medical care because we probably assume that ensuring our rights is someone else's job.

Yes, there's a Patient's Bill of Rights. The gist is pretty straightforward : you are guaranteed speedy care , full disclosure of costs, confidentiality, and a bevy of other civilized basic rights, many of which you also enjoy when buying a new muffler for your car, if you own a car. If you wouldn't be intimidated to ask about the warranty on the muffler, you shouldn't be embarrassed to ask about the warranty on your knee replacement or your new heart valve.

Here are just a few of the basic entitlements you enjoy as a Patient in our fair land : (you may like to print it out and keep it by your side to review it and for easier reference)

1. As a patient, you have the right to considerate, respectful care. You aren't obligated to be considerate and respectful to those who are caring for you, but it would be nice.

2.You have the right to obtain current, understandable, relevant information about your diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis from health care providers/hospitals. rather than waiting for it to be handed to you, though, we'd suggest exercising your right to seek it out on your own, if you want to add objective and complete to the adjectives above.

3. If you speak another language, have a disability, or don't understand something, you have the right to have it explained to you so you do understand it. This doesn't mean that doctors have to give you the answer that'll make you happy, however.

4. You have the right to immediate emergency screening and stabilization when you're in severe pain of have been injured. Of course, immediate could mean sixteen(16) hours if the ER, Emergency Room, is really backed up that night.

5. Except in emergencies where you must be treated right away, you have the right to discuss your treatment options, the benefits and risks involved, the length of recuperation, and medical alternatives before making a decision about your care. You even have the right to discuss this with so many doctors, consultants, and alternative-medicine practitioners that you might never get around to making any decisions.

6. You have the right to know the identity of the people involved in caring for you as well as their experience, such as if they're new residents or students. You can attempt to flirt with them as well, but it may not get you better treatment.

7.You have the right to know the estimated costs of all treatments. Itemised billing can be requested, no arbitrary or miscellaneous items allowed. You also have the right to be given ice water and a cold compress after fainting upon learning the estimated costs. No joke here.

8.You have the right to make decisions about the care you'll receive and to refuse certain treatments to the extent permitted by law. In the best situation, you won't have angry relatives trying to have you declared insane.

9. You have the right to expect that your medical information will be kept confidential, except in cases where reporting it is required by law.
For an example of the latter, if you have the Ebola virus, we have to report it. But you won't have too long to be upset anyway.

10.You have the right to have an advance directive such as a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy. An advance health care directive is a document used that combines a living will and health care power of attorney.

11.You have the right to review your medical records and have the information in them explained to you. You may also express consternation if your medicals are presented to you in seven large supermarket paper bags, and you are given a pitchfork to sort through them.

12.In a hospital setting, you have the right to receive medical care within a reasonable time. Reasonable is a much longer span of time than immediate, and immediate is subject to the interpretation explained in a previous right.

13. You have the right to agree or refuse to participate in research studies (a ongoing thing)and to have them fully explained to you before you jump in. This doesn't guarantee that a treatment will be named after you, however.

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