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New charter to uphold patients' rights in medical care

Graphic: A patient receives treatment from a doctor

The draft charter seeks to ensure that patients have information and choices in the medical care they receive.

The Union Health Ministry is set to implement a charter of patients' rights that includes, among others, the freedom for patients to choose medicines or diagnostic tests from sources other than those recommended by their doctors or hospitals.

The draft charter, prepared by the National Human Rights Commission, outlines the rights that patients are entitled to under existing legal provisions and proposes a three-tier mechanism to address patients' grievances.

It sets out a patient's right to information about their illness, proposed diagnostic tests, possible complications and likely additional costs due to changes in the course of the illness.

Patients also have the right to emergency medical care, irrespective of their capacity to pay.

Amid long-standing suspicions about kickbacks being exchanged in the healthcare sector, the charter asserts the right of patients to choose medicines or diagnostic services from any registered pharmacy or diagnostic centre.

The charter says "it is the duty" of treating doctors or hospital management to inform patients "they are free to access prescribed medicines or investigations from a pharmacy of diagnostic centre of their choice".

Further, a patient's decision should not in any way adversely influence the care provided by doctors or hospitals.

The rights set out in the charter are linked to existing legal provisions - such as the Consumer Protection Act, the Medical Council of India's code of ethics, the National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission's rulings and a Supreme court judgment on emergency care - but will require states to implement them.

The NHRC said it expects the charter will serve as a "guidance document" for the national and state governments to develop concrete mechanisms that protect the patients' rights and "operational mechanisms to make them enforceable by law".

"This is especially important and an urgent need at the present juncture because India does not have a dedicated regulator like other countries," the NHRC said.

"Another objective is to generate widespread public awareness and educate citizens regarding what they should expect from their governments and healthcare providers."

Date: 1 September 2018

Source: The Telegraph


Image credits

  1. A patient receives treatment from a doctor - mynameisharsha, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2MXMxW3