India will soon implement a Charter of Patients’ Rights to provide clarity, awareness, and ensure basic rights and responsibilities of all patients in accessing quality healthcare. The charter, prepared by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), lays down 17 basic rights of citizens that include right to information, records and reports, emergency care, informed consent, privacy and confidentiality, transparency in rates, second opinion, choosing alternative treatment options and a grievance redressal mechanism. The draft charter has been uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for stakeholder comments. Once adopted, the charter will have to be prominently displayed at all hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and diagnostic laboratories.
Further, the Center and state governments need to set-up a grievance redressal mechanism for patients. The charter assumes significance as India does not have a dedicated regulator like other countries. Existing regulations in the interest of patients and governing healthcare delivery systems are still on the anvil. To be effective, it is essential that patients have access to an independent ombudsman or commissioner who can quickly and economically resolve their complaints or concerns. “It’s a good beginning, but patient charters will be toothless tiger, if patients have no access to an independent ombudsman or redressal system that can quickly resolve their complaints,” said an executive who works with a policy think tank.
Drawing upon all
To be sure, there are various legal provisions in India relating to patient’s rights, which are scattered across different legal documents like Article 21 of the Constitution of India, Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002; The Consumer Protection Act, 1986; Drugs and Cosmetic Act, 1940, Clinical Establishment Act, 2010 and various judgments given by Supreme Court and decisions of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission. The proposed Charter of Patient’s Rights draws upon all these relevant provisions, with the objective of consolidating these into a single document, thereby making them publicly known in a coherent manner.
“There is an expectation that this document will act as a guidance document for the Center and state governments to formulate concrete mechanisms so that patient’s rights are given adequate protection and operational mechanisms are set-up to make these rights functional and enforceable by law,” NHRC said. The charter also prescribes certain responsibilities that the patient must adhere to. These include: providing all required information to their doctor, without concealing relevant facts, so as to ensure a correct diagnosis and treatment.
It seeks d0ctor-patient co-operation during examination, diagnostic tests and treatment and adherence to doctor’s advice. Patients are also expected to follow all instructions regarding appointment time, co-operate with hospital staff and fellow patients, avoid creating disturbance to other patients, and maintain cleanliness in the hospital. Patients should respect the dignity of the doctor and other hospital staff. Whatever the grievance may be, patient or caregivers should not resort to violence in any form. The patients should also take responsibility for their actions based on choices made regarding treatment options and in case they refuse treatment. – Money Control