Patient Rights Basics
Facing a medical crisis can be a daunting experience. Patients are often shuffled between doctors and forced to make serious medical decisions quickly and with a limited understanding of the medicine involved. It can be easy to forget that patients are not merely human bodies that need to be mended, but people with emotional needs and rights. Health care laws grant patients the right to control their own care, even in the face of a medical crisis.
Take Control of Your Medical Care
Doctors are, by definition, medical experts. They can use their expertise to diagnose patient illnesses and recommend courses of treatment. However, patients must always remember that the decision to treat -- or not -- ultimately resides with them. This means that if a patient chooses not to follow a doctor's advice, the doctor has no authority to force the patient to undergo treatment. This right extends to taking prescribed medication as well as choosing which medical professional will treat the patient. Finally, patients can decide whether they want to disclose their medical records or keep them private.
In this section, you'll learn why these rights exist and how they work. The articles here explore the basic applications of patient rights as well as the laws surrounding more controversial medical decisions, such as assisted suicide.
One of the best ways for patients to assert their rights is to plan ahead. In the midst of a medical crisis is not the best time to make important decisions about your health. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make these decisions ahead of time. Once you know how you would like to be treated in the event of an emergency, you can create an advanced directive to instruct your doctors about your wishes. These directives are usually binding on health care providers. In this section, you'll find articles on how to create an advanced directive that's legally enforceable. You'll also find information on creating a medical power of attorney, which will allow you to name a trusted friend or family member to make decisions for you if you are ever unable to do so on your own.