We itemized our rights a fortnight ago and this week, I feel a serious need to discuss Patients’ Rights. If you check the news or look around, quite a number of people have died within the last month i.e. between March and April and we aren’t even in the “ember” months yet. It wasn’t Marchember neither is it April–mber so the curse/superstitions surrounding those months is definitely not upon us.
It can be argued that a number of the deaths that have occurred in the last few months seemed to have happened in the hospital. How do I know this? I carried out my own low-key investigation/research. This is not to say Doctors are to be blamed, however I feel we need to be more conscious so our rights or those of our loved ones do not get breached.
Primum non nocere is an essential maxim in Medicine that means first do no harm. It is a reminder that even the best intended conduct can result in injury to the Patient. The efficacy of this maxim can be measured by studying the adverse effects in hospitals and health care settings.
Physicians, Doctors, Nurses, Surgeons, Hospital Administrators and other medical staff who work in health care settings are just as vulnerable to making errors as anyone else might be, but there still remains a persistent and unshakable belief by the public that Doctors and Nurses are infallible. Health care providers have been advised over and over again to stop playing ‘god’ as the rights of our citizens need to be protected and the guarantee of these workers need to be put in place.
Most often, people do not realize their individual rights when they are hospitalized/at the time of their care. This is so because those rights are either not distinctly defined or included in the documentation that Patients need to sign during registration.
In Nigeria, people tend to see Doctors as demigods. Generally, when errors occur in the treatment of a Patient, whether done negligently or by conduct or deed, the relatives and friends of the Patients are left feeling frustrated, bitter or angry due to the faith either blindly or not that they had in the Health Care System (the Doctor, Nurse or Health Personnel).
More often than not, little or no explanation is given to these patients and they are most frequently left to wonder how or where things went wrong. Occasionally, their loved ones/care givers at the time begin to wonder if infact they made the biggest mistakes of their life by taking their loved ones(the patient) to that particular hospital (when things go wrong). The Health Personnel(s)/ Doctors who most likely would have withdrawn from the Patients at this stage make this situation very confusing, brain tasking and a truly painful one; which leads the Patients, their care givers/ family members to lawyers for plausible answers to the misery they have been left to bear.
Of course Patients have rights, however, they also have a responsibility that is much bigger than their rights. Patients have a responsibility to be more involved in their care and ought to adopt a more proactive approach to their medical treatment.
A healthy life is a high quality of life. In order for Patients’ rights to be effectively preserved with the highest standard, the Patient and the health care provider must work together to develop and maintain optimum health.
Life expectancy really does depend on the quality of the health care provided and delivered in a country. The government clearly has a major role to play in this.
Thanks to the Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC), Mr. Babatunde Irukera, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the Federal Ministry of Health, we now have a Patient’s Bill of Rights that seeks to uphold the Rights of Patients. What this means is that there is a standard in place, a standard of rights that would be a benchmark/ a guide. All the Medical Associations and Stakeholders came together for the formulation of an acceptable guide to regulate interactions between Patients and health care providers and to ensure and promote safe and better health care facilities.
So here are your “Patient’s Bill of Rights”:
- Right to receive relevant information in a language and manner the Patient’s understands including diagnosis, procedures and possible outcomes;
- Right to timely access to detailed and accurate medical records and available resources;
- Right to transparent billing and full disclosure of any costs including the recommended treatment plans;
- Right to privacy and confidentiality of medical records;
- Right to clean, safe and secure health care environment;
- Right to be treated with respect regardless of gender, age, race, religion, ethnicity, allegations of crime, disability or economic circumstances;
- Right to receive urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care in the event of an emergency prioritizing such needed attention over factors including cost and payment , as well as law enforcement requirements;
- Right to reasonable visitation in accordance to prevailing rules and regulations;
- Right to decline care subject to prevailing laws and upon full disclosure of consequences of such a decision;
- Right to decline or consent to participation in medical research, experimental procedures and clinical trials;
- Right to quality care in accordance to prevailing standards;
- Right to complain and express dissatisfaction regarding services received.
The Patient’s Bill of Rights (PBoR) in itself is an aggregation of rights that exist in other instruments including, The Constitution, Child Rights Act, Freedom of Information Act, National Health Act, Consumer Protection Act and other Ethical Codes of Conduct.
The PBoR has come to fill a vacuum that has been in the Nigerian health care system for a long time. I hope this Bill gets codified and passed into law. I also hope we get to see the PBoR pasted around in hospitals and in the office of all Doctors, to serve as a reminder of the standard that ought to be in place.
A thing to note as well is that every smartphone has a Medical ID; I therefore implore us to have this set up to aid the doctors when an emergency occurs (The Nigerian in you just yelled out…God forbid).
Till next time….
By Adesola Osuntoki