Patients’ rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that every individual has the right to a dignified life and equal opportunities. This concept would later become the touchstone of all other rights, including the rights of the patients, that confers on them the privilege to have a dignified treatment for their ailments, without discrimination. With this premise in the context, no one can be put in harm’s way. In case that happens, legal recourse for the compensation or the redressel of the problem can be easily invoked.

Countries differ in providing patients’ rights. Usually, cultural norms and prevailing trends determine the relationship between physicians and patients, which could also be the reflection of the citizen-state relationship. Various models have been followed to determine the rights that patients are entitled to. In North America and Europe, for instance, four models are adhered to: the paternalistic model, the informative model, the interpretive model, and the deliberative model. Each model provides a different framework, within which physicians fulfil their obligations towards patients. For instance, in the paternalistic model, a physician’s clinical judgment is based on the best interests of the patient that makes it necessary to give patients the right to participate in deciding on the mode of treatment. In contrast to this, the informative model views the doctor as chiefly a provider of information.

There is, however, an international consensus on the fundamental rights every patient has to privacy, the confidentiality of their medical information, to consent or to refuse treatment and to be informed about the potential risk inherent in the medical procedures.

A holistic approach encompassing every stakeholder is assured for the protection of the rights of the patients. Other than policymakers and service providers, the state is also responsible to educate its people on what constitutes the right to a healthy and safe life. Similarly, once in the hands of a doctor, complete information about the ailment and expenses involved for treatment has to be passed on to the patient. This knowledge and active engagement empower every individual to make informed decisions, both at the personal and policy level, to get quality healthcare.

Health experts have categorized quality healthcare system into six components. One, a safe system for all patients, in all processes and at all times. According to this component, a patient’s medical history is carefully managed and preserved, so that the patient is provided with constant care, irrespective of any constraints. Two, a system that provides effective care. It entails that to produce the best results, all possible determinants of treatment----preventive service, diagnostic tests, therapy or no intervention----are explored to reach the best decision. Three, to establish a patient-centric system. In it care is taken to give respect to patients’ values, preferences, expressed needs and providing them emotional support where and when required. Four, a system that delivers care in a timely manner. This includes providing timely care without delay because delayed care besides being wasteful also causes anxiety among patients and families. Five, setting up an efficient system. It translates into operational continuity, optimization, and continuous improvement. Six, a healthcare system that is equitable. It suggests that treatment should be based on an individual’s need not on personal characteristics such as gender or race etc.

Notwithstanding, the importance of these administrative and theoretical arrangements, the conduct of the doctor towards his patients overrides every other essentiality of healthcare.

Between patient and doctor is a binding that gets stronger not only through how professionally a treatment is meted out, which usually becomes secondary preposition when care is measured against quality. What tops the list of quality treatment is the behavior of the doctor. No matter how good is the treatment, the romance just fizzles out if the hands healing the wound lacks compassion. Of late, either due to increasing responsibilities or overexposure to technology, the doctors have been found to have set aside kindness and compassion as the necessary traits.

It is imperative, therefore, to understand the dynamics that make a human being---in our case the medical staff-----true caregivers. Kindness taken for granted can get lost in the smog of routine checkups, sufferings, deaths, complicated machines, and the strenuous life at an HCE. It was perhaps in this context that the National Health Services in England decided to redesign CARE to the evolving needs of the twenty-first century.

Considering it learned behavior, compassion and kindness, as demonstrative abilities, have also been included in the medical curricula of many countries. According to a Tibetan Buddhist teacher and meditator, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, “Compassion lies within each of us and emerges after removing the stumbling blocks of greed, anger, and ignorance.” New findings have also revealed that compassion promotes competence. The inevitable corollary is that the patient/provider relationship should be founded and marked by mutual respect and support. Patients have the responsibility not only to their doctors but to themselves too. It is also essential to know that there is always a limit to patient’s rights if the purpose is to prevent serious harm to the patients themselves.

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