Many patient “rights” are simply pious clichés,for example, the right to a “Choice of Provider,” your right to “Access to Emergency Services,” your right to “Participate in Treatment Decisions” the right not to be discriminated against, the right to privacy (see the HIPAA Privacy Act), the right to complain and appeal, etc. There are over 8 million sites on Google where you can find endless lists of patient rights issued by Government, uncountable medical organizations, HMO’s, private hospitals (see this nice one from Abington Memorial Hospital in suburban Philadelphia), etc.
I had something different in mind when I drew up the following list. If you are a hospitalized patient you indeed have, among other rights, the following:
1. The right to exchange immediately the disgusting open-at-the-back hospital gown for your own nightgown, pajamas, and robe. You also have the right to a bedside commode, with assistance, if you cannot make it to the bathroom.
2. The right to refuse any inedible meals offered you, along with the parallel right of ordering your own meals brought in from outside – or in extreme cases reported – walking out of the hospital and going to the pizza parlor or Chinese takeout across the street. Item: The hospital earns a negotiated daily (per diem) rate from Medicare and most insurers, between $1,000-$2,000 a day for your care and feeding. Compare that with $200-$300 per day at The Hilton.
Other suggested, specific rights of refusal
a. You may refuse multiple blood lettings for tests during a single day because an intern or attending has a new inspiration following the writing of morning orders.
b. You may refuse to remain attached to an IV line or an oxygen tube or other apparatus long after the need for them exists. (For courtesy, and if you’re in bad straights, I suggest consulting your doctor first on this one.)
c. You can refuse to be awakened at night for sleeping pills. (Or you can at least chew out the nurse.)
d. You may refuse to be taken anywhere else in the hospital without being told first where you’re going, what you’re going for, and who ordered the trip. You cannot be forced or coerced into taking any medication, including injectables with which you are unfamiliar or about which you are concerned.
e. Make sure you are properly identified before you receive medications or are transported anywhere. Believe it or not, misidentification of patients as well as medical orders for treatment or tests are still among the most prevalent and egregious hospital errors.
f. General right of refusal includes your right to challenge any treatment, diagnostic test, specific therapy, or other procedure of which you have no knowledge or have any unanswered questions. Remember these magic words which Must be obeyed when uttered: “I Refuse this (service)”, otherwise you may be manipulated or bamboozled into passivity and acceptance.
While this list of “rights” has a strong scent, it merely expresses a common sense approach to be applied whenever you have concerns, misgivings, or queries. If followed mindlessly and without tact, some of these “rights” may be counterproductive, irritating physician and staff. Still, in a reasonable universe, hospital staffs should be compelled to treat patients with exceeding respect and calm consideration.
Nothing can justify inconsiderate treatment of patients. When people find themselves sick in a strange environment, they are absolutely dependent on the kindness, let alone competence, of strangers.