Charter of Patients’ Rights and Responsibilities (2021)
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released India’s first Charter of Patients’ Rights in a letter to the state governments dated June 2019. It was adopted in view of the various complaints of medical malpractice, inadequate services and lack of transparency received by the government. On August 23, 2021, the Charter was updated to include seven more rights – in addition to the original 13 – as approved by the National Council for Clinical Establishments, government of India.
The Charter is based on a draft compiled by the National Human Rights Commission in August 2018. The NHRC draft discussed the need to integrate and codify patients’ rights in India, which were spread across provisions like the Constitution of India, the Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2002, and the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The Charter of Patients’ Rights aims at making people aware of their rights as well as responsibilities as patients, to inform them of the facilities and treatment due to them from medical professionals and establishments, and to ensure better recognition of patients’ rights by health professionals.
The five-page document delineates 20 rights of patients and their six responsibilities – to provide all health-related information, cooperate with doctors during medical examination and treatment, follow their instructions, pay the agreed hospital fees on time, respect the dignity of doctors and hospital staff and refrain from using violence.
The following are excerpts from the 20 rights listed in the Charter:
i. To adequate relevant information about the nature, cause of illness, proposed investigations and care, expected results of treatment, possible complications and expected costs.
ii. To information on the Rates charged for each type of service provided and facilities available. Clinical Establishment shall display the same at a conspicuous place in the local as well as in English language.
iii. To access a copy of the case papers, patient records, investigation reports and detailed bill (itemized).
iv. To informed consent prior to specific tests/treatment (e.g. surgery, chemotherapy etc.)
v. To seek second opinion from an appropriate clinician of patients' choice, with records and information being provided by the treating hospital.
vi. To confidentiality, human dignity and privacy during treatment.
vii. To have ensured presence of a female person, during physical examination of a female patient by a male practitioner.
viii. To non-discrimination about treatment and behaviour on the basis of HIV status.
ix. To choose alternative treatment if options are available.
x. Release of dead body of a patient cannot be denied for any reason by the hospitals.
xi. It was recommended that patient seeking transfer to another hospital/discharge from a hospital will have the responsibility to "settle the agreed upon payment".
xii. It may be specified in the charter that no discrimination in treatment based upon his or his [her] illness or conditions, including HIV status or other health condition, religion ethnicity, gender (including transgender), age, sexual orientation, linguistic or geographical/social origins.
xiii. Informed consent of patient should be taken before digitization of medical records.
xiv. Right to care according to prescribed rates wherever relevant.
xv. Right to choose source for obtaining medicines or tests.
xvi. Right to protection and compensation for patients involved in clinical trials, as per Drugs and Cosmetics Act and other Government Guidelines.
xvii. Right to protection and compensation for participants involved in biomedical and health research as per ICMR and other Government Guidelines.
xviii. Right to Patient Education.
xix. Right to be heard and seek redressal.
xx. Right to proper referral
and transfer, which is free from perverse commercial influences.
Focus and Factoids by Swadesha Sharma.
National Human Rights Commission, India and National Council for Clinical Establishments
National Council for Clinical Establishments, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India
23 Aug, 2021