Patients' Rights in the Age of COVID-19by Abha Kashyap Managing Patner
The Covid-19 corona virus has given us new insight into the essentiality of the hospital system to the health and safety of our populace. However, it has also placed an exceptional burden upon the system – which may have a negative impact on patients. Overworked medical practitioners and strained medical facilities may attempt to stem the flow of patients by denying treatments to cases that appear trivial or troublesome. Similarly, fear of infection may encourage practitioners and facilities to deny other treatments to patients with Covid-19 for fear of spreading the disease further. In order to ensure you aren’t lost in the shuffle, it is important to know your rights as a patient.
The best compilation of patients’ rights is the Charter of Patients’ Rights, drafted by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare in 2018. These are seventeen rights that the Ministry complied from the various acts and regulations governing medical care and requested State Governments to implement.
While all states have not adopted the Charter of Patient Rights, this doesn’t mean the document is without legal weight. This charter serves both as a summarization of the rights available to patients under the current law as well as suggestions for codifying rights that extend from common law principles and the conceptions of justice in Indian jurisprudence. Also, as a document drafted and propagated by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the document has significant persuasive authority in and of itself.
No matter who you are or what caused your injury or illness, you have a right to treatment for emergencies. The Right to Emergency Careobligates all hospitals – government and private alike – to provide emergency care to all without demanding any payment or advance prior to the commencement of services and irrespective of the paying capacity of the patients. This means problems such as accidents, acute illnesses or severe complications from Covid-19 must be treated by hospitals and no one can keep you waiting on the basis of payment.
Patients are also entitled to safety from infection within the hospitals. The Right to Safety and Quality Care According to Standards ensures that patients receive their treatment in an environment that is safe and clean and, in particular, has “infection control measures, and safe drinking water as per BIS/FSSAI Standards and sanitation facilities”. This means that you are entitled to protection from Covid-19 while being screened or receiving other treatment within the hospital.
Patients are also entitled to receive treatment regardless of a diagnosis of Covid-19 or any other disease. The Right to Non-Discrimination protects all patients from discrimination and forbids medical practitioners and establishments from withholding treatment on the basis of “illness or conditions” just as it forbids discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, ethnicity, gender, and the like. This means that – even with a positive Covid-19 diagnosis – you are entitled to the same care as other patients.
If you are in need, these rights will help insure you get the care you need. However, we must provide a word of caution: ensure that when you exercise your rights, you are acting out of genuine medical need. With the massive strain on practitioners and staff during this pandemic, their effort and time is invaluable in keeping us safe. Using these rights as a cudgel to satisfy any demand for non-essential or frivolous treatment can cost lives. It is the duty of every civic-minded citizen to keep from abusing their rights in times of crisis.
Created on Apr 3rd 2020 00:55. Viewed 359 times.