Whether you are seeing a physician, surgeon, dentist, or psychiatrist, it is very important for all patients to fully understand their rights. Medical professionals have an ethical and legal responsibility to honor your rights as an individual human being. Among the most important of these rights is your doctor’s obligation to obtain your informed consent before any kind of treatment or procedure.
Unfortunately, patients do not always have the complete information they need to advocate for their own best interests. Highly educated professionals can seem intimidating, and many healthcare providers do not appreciate being second-guessed. To avoid becoming victims of mistreatment or foreseeable errors, we all need to understand – and be willing to protect – our rights.
Making Choices for Yourself
Every competent adult is entitled to making the final decisions about his or her healthcare. Even if the experts around you strongly disagree, you do not have to undergo an experiment or procedure you do not want. This right also extends to any children or incapacitated adults in your care.
Of course, the ability to make medical choices does not mean very much when we lack the facts we need. This is why researchers and other professionals are required to provide necessary information, in addition to their obligation to respect our wishes. Specific rights that apply to every patient of any kind in the US include:
Access to your complete medical records. The names of any diagnoses, prescriptions, or procedures you have undergone must be available to you. While no one else has the right to view this information without your permission, no one has the right to hide it from you.
Basic information about any proposed procedure. This include its name, potential benefits, potential risks, chances of working, and everything you can expect while undergoing it. If a nurse or other professional withholds such information from you, he or she is breaking the law.
Alternative treatments. You may be interested in other options for treating a certain condition. No matter what your doctor personally thinks of these alternatives, he or she has a duty to let you know what they are. If you have any questions about other diagnoses that may apply to you, he or she must also answer those.
When these obligations are ignored, the consequences for innocent victims can be dire. The chances of errors and painful injuries can be much greater when patients’ voices are not heard.