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Patient Rights

Before making an important health care-related decision, it's important for you to understand your rights as a patient. State and federal laws protect patients' interests in a wide range of areas, including patient privacy, available treatments, and informed consent. In order to help you make informed decisions regarding your health care, this section provides resources on patient rights and long-term care. You'll find articles on planning ahead for medical care, reading the fine print on prescription medication bottles, evaluating online health information, determining whether you need long-term care insurance, understanding the medical marijuana laws in your state, and more.

Patient Rights Issues

One of the main issues that arises in health care law involves patient privacy. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits health care providers from disclosing a patient's medical records without consent. When improper disclosures occur, patients have a couple legal options. First, they can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. Second, depending on the laws of their state, they can seek compensation by filing a suit for invasion of privacy.

Legal issues can also arise in the area of patient consent. Informed consent laws require medical providers to explain all of the potential risks, benefits, and alternatives involved with a treatment. They must then obtain the patient's written consent before moving forward with a course of treatment. If a medical provider fails to do so, and a patient is injured as a result, the provider may be liable for medical malpractice.

Finally, states have begun to recognize a number of controversial patient rights. For example, several states, including California and Colorado, have legalized the use of marijuana as a form of medical treatment. In addition, a handful of states, including Oregon and Washington, have legalized physician-assisted suicide.

Planning for Long-term Care

As the population ages, many Americans are facing important decisions about long-term care. Before making arrangements, however, you should educate yourself about the options available for elderly individuals. For example, long-term care insurance may be advantageous for some, but prohibitively expensive for others. In addition to information on patient rights, this section provides resources on planning for long-term care, including articles on durable power of attorney, the risks and benefits of long-term care insurance, home care options for the elderly, and more.