A client recently told me that she had been taking a particular medicine for the past few weeks even though it was making her continually nauseous. I asked whether she had reported it to her treating physician. She said she hadn’t because physician apparently gets ‘angry’ with her for complaining too much.
It made me think of my privilege as an empowered woman as well as a medical professional. I take it for granted that I can question my service provider. But women raised to live life bowing to tradition and hierarchy, they cannot confidently question authority figures. So they bear discomfort, even illness and pain, just so that authority figures can feel smug about having ‘succesfully’ treated her illness.
The doctor–patient relationship has historically been described as based on trust rather than on the monetary considerations evident in the more typical business transaction. With increasing cost and complexity of treatments, hospitals began considering themselves business establishments and patients started viewing themselves as ‘consumers’.
Patient’s rights are inextricably linked to human rights. Access to healthcare is a human right.
In the paternalistic model of the doctor-patient relationship, the doctor utilises his skills to choose the necessary interventions and treatments most likely to restore the patient’s health or ameliorate his pain. Any information given to the patient is selected to encourage them to consent to the doctor’s decisions.
This description of the asymmetrical or imbalanced interaction between doctor and patient has been challenged during the last 20 years. Critics have proposed a more active, autonomous and thus patient-centred role for the patient who advocates greater patient control, reduced physician dominance, and more mutual participation.
I am enumerating some of patient’s basic rights, that apply not just to Psychiatry but to all specialities.
1. Right to Appropriate Medical Care and Humane Treatment.
2. Right to Informed Consent.
3. Right to Privacy and Confidentiality.
4. Right to Information.
5. The Right to Choose Health Care Provider and Facility.
6. Right to Self-Determination.
7. Right to Religious Belief.
8. Right to Medical Records.
9. Right to Leave.
10. Right to Refuse Participation In Medical Research.
11. RIght to Correspondence and to Receive Visitors.
12. Right to Express Grievances.
13. RIght to be Informed of His Rights and Obligations as a Patient.
I hope the readers are encouraged to exert their rights that WHO espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978.
Ask your doctor for information about your illness, plan of management, alternative treatments, cost of treatment, short and long term side effects.
Be an informed patient in this information age, it is your right as well as your duty.