NEW DELHI: The government has released a draft ‘Charter of Patients’ Rights’ prepared by the National Human Rights Commission to draw attention to the hitherto unacknowledged rights of patients. According to the draft, no doctor or hospital can force a patient or attendant to buy drug from specified pharmacies. Also, every hospital will need to have a grievance redressal system. The draft policy recognises right to seek information, records and reports, emergency medical care, informed consent, confidentiality, seeking second opinion, transparency in rates, and care, choosing alternative care and choosing source of medicines and tests.
It also acknowledges the rights of individuals involved in clinical trials and their protection from biomedical and health researches. “There is expectation that this document will act as a guidance document for the Union government and State governments to formulate concrete mechanisms so that patients’ rights are given adequate protection and operational mechanisms are set up to make these rights enforceable by law,” says the draft.
This is notable as India does not have a dedicated regulator like other countries and the existing regulations in the interest of patients and very few states have adopted the national Clinical Establishments Act 2010 to regulate the private sector.The NHRC has recommended that every clinical establishment should set up an internal grievance redressal mechanism which should respond to a complainant within 24 hours as per the provisions of the charter.
move on patients’ rights hailed
If a solution acceptable to the patient is not found at the level of the clinical establishment, the complainant can approach the district and then the authorities of other states which have other state-level authorities.S Srinivasan of Campaign for Affordable and Dignified Healthcare said that what the Centre had released now was a “well thought-out bill of rights for patients.”
“The government, for the first time, is not only acknowledging the various rights of patients but also talking about educating people on what to expect and demand, and I think it’s very significant,” he said.
“If the charter leads to formation of a statute where aggrieved patients can reach out to in case of violations-it will be a defining moment for India’s healthcare sector,” he said.There have been highly publicised cases in the recent past of patients being forced to pay for overpriced medicines and equipment at private hospitals. These cases led to calls for tighter regulation of private hospitals’ functioning.