STRONG PATIENT RIGHTS LAWS WILL SAVE LIVES, REDUCE MEDICAL COSTS AND PROTECT DOCTORSAND HOSPITALS AS WELL AS PATIENTS
Establishing a clearly defined set of objective legal standards for the medical treatment of patients in the form of patient rights, that are backed by severe penalties for failing to abide by the law, will, for the first time, make anyone in the medical industry who attends to patients accountable for their actions and will remove the opportunity to take advantage of patients without any fear of repercussion.
By increasing the risk and opportunity cost and decreasing the benefit, the temptation to treat patients poorly or take advantage of them for personal gain will be significantly diminished.
With such temptations removed the patient has a much greater chance of receiving safe, fair and honest treatment, which in turn will offer a better chance for a positive outcome at a lower cost.
When laws are established that require patients to be treated as people in need of medical attention, rather than sources of income, healthcare outcomes will improve and the cost of healthcare will decline.
WHAT IS A PATIENT CHARTER OF RIGHTS
From CMAJ, Apr 12, 2012
An effective patient charter contains clearly articulated patient rights - many of which are already provided in law but scattered in different places - such as patients' rights to access their health records, to privacy and to informed consent.
A patient charter of rights with independent enforcement should be adopted as part of the move to patient-centered care. A properly designed patient charter or bill of rights can help patients resolve concerns and complaints easily and cost-effectively, through an independent ombudsman or commissioner.
Many countries such as New Zealand, Norway, Finland, England, Israel have patient charters. Health professionals may have concerns that patient charters will increase lawsuits or disciplinary actions, but evidence shows that "patient charters with dedicated complaints processes enable matters to be resolved at an early stage by informal means, averting the need for litigation or formal disciplinary proceedings," write Colleen Flood and Kathryn May, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. In New Zealand, for example, formal disciplinary actions against providers have plummeted because a patient commissioner mediates patient complaints.
An independent health ombudsman can help spur overall improvement in the system by issuing recommendations or reports on system problems. Overseas experience suggests that despite having no formal powers to implement change such recommendations can nonetheless be a powerful force for change.
"A patient charter of rights should achieve greater clarity and awareness of the nature and extent of patients' rights; if well-designed, it should also help drive improvements in the quality and timeliness of care, improve the overall accountability of members of the health care system and reduce costly litigation," the authors conclude. "However, experience shows that it is easy for a patient charter to be a toothless tiger - that is, a mechanism to merely talk about improving the patient experience and reforming the health care system."