How to read a Patient's Bill of Rights - Pregnancy and Childbirth

What is a Patient’s Bill of Rights?

A Patient’s Bill of Rights is a document that provides patients with information on how they can reasonably expect to be treated during the course of their hospital stay. These documents are, in almost all cases, not legally-binding. They simply provide goals and expectations for patient treatment. The Patient’s Bills of Rights was recently renamed the Patient Care Partnership.

What claims are included in the Patient’s Bill of Rights?

How to read a Patient's Bill of Rights - Pregnancy and ChildbirthWhile specific wording varies from hospital to hospital, most bills of rights include the following focus areas:

  • High-quality hospital care
    • A patient can expect to be treated with respect regardless of race, sex, gender, color, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or other state or condition
    • A patient may choose who he/she spends time with during the course of care
    • Appropriate pain management will be provided to the patient
    • Patients are to be free from restraints and seclusion unless completely medically necessary
  • A clean and safe treatment environment
  • Involvement in care
    • Providers will disclose and discuss patient’s condition and provide information about relevant medical decisions
    • Providers will discuss patient’s treatment plan
    • Providers will work to obtain information from patients about their condition and personal state
    • Providers will work to understand the patient’s health care goals and personal values
    • Providers will understand who is to make decisions for the patient if she/he is unable to
    • Patients can expect access to their medical records at will
  • Protection of patients’ privacy
  • Help with patients’ billing and insurance claims
  • Preparing for the end of patients’ hospital visits

You can access the full text of the Patient Care Partnership, in multiple languages, here.

In addition to these claims, a hospital’s Patient Bill of Rights often includes specific claims for pregnant patients

These extra rights tend to be based on the following ideas:

  • Choice in health-care treatment
    • A patient can expect to choose her own midwife or physician
    • A patient can expect to choose her birth setting from the range of safe options
  • Freedom of movement during labor
  • Virtually uninterrupted contact with her newborn
  • Complete information about the benefits of breastfeeding

Is a Patient’s Bill of Rights the same as a consent form?

No. There is a difference between a Patient’s Bill of Rights and a Consent Form. A Consent Form is a waiver signed by the patient to undergo medical treatment once they have been informed about the treatment, its risks, and other viable options. A Patient’s Bill of Rights, on the other hand, is a less specific document. It does not deliver consent on behalf of the patient for certain treatment plans, but instead promises that if a treatment plan is considered, the patient will receive information about it, and may give their consent at this point. In this way, a Patient’s Bill of Rights guarantees that a patient will be given a consent form to sign before certain types of treatment are enacted.

You have received a Patient’s Bill of Rights. Now what?

  • You should read the document carefully and expect the guarantees provided to you within.
  • You should ask questions. The Patient Care Partnership encourages you to be as involved in your care as possible.
  • If you feel your care does not meet the goals of the Patient’s Bill of Rights you may file a complaint with your physician or the department providing your care, the complaint should be resolved promptly and completely.
  • If your needs are not met at the department level you may file a complaint with the hospital more generally. This information is likely located on your hospital’s website.
  • If the hospital does not resolve your complaint you may take it to your state Department of Health. This information should be located on your hospital’s website, as well as on your state’s Department of Health web portal.
  • If your complaints are not resolved through any of these sources, you are encouraged to contact The Joint Commission’s Office of Quality Monitoring, which is a non-profit group that accredits and certifies the quality and care standards in many American hospitals. Contact information for The Joint Commission is listed below:
    • The Joint Commission – Office of Quality Monitoring
    • One Renaissance Boulevard
    • Oakbrook Terrace, IL, 60181
    • #(800) 994-6610

What if medical professionals fail to honor patient rights?

Although a Patient’s Bill of Rights may not be legally binding in all aspects, doctors and nurses do have certain legal obligations, such as the obligation to provide high-quality care and the obligation to involve their patients in the decision-making process.

If medical professionals fail to provide standard of care (i.e. appropriate treatment) or do not obtain a patient’s informed consent (or the informed permission of a parent/guardian) before taking a specific course of action, this is negligent behavior. If their negligence harms a patient, it constitutes medical malpractice, and they can be subject to lawsuits.

About ABC Law Centers

The medical malpractice attorneys at ABC Law Centers focus on birth injury cases; that is, harm to a baby that occurs just before, during, or after childbirth. Birth injuries can lead to lifelong disabilities such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy (CP), and we are passionate about advocating for children with these conditions.

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