In order to improve the quality of health care, a patient’s bill of rights was introduced in the 1960s, requiring all nurses to respect and protect their patients. These rights continue to be applicable in the nursing health care environment even today. The most basic of these is the patient’s right to receive respectful and considerate care. In this respect, the nurse is obligated to ensure that the care offered to the patient is in line with the ethical and moral codes of nursing without any contravention. The patient also has the right to obtain understandable, current, and all relevant information that is associated with his or her diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis. This information should be made available by the nurses, doctors, and other caregivers attending the patient. These rights are equally applicable to both inpatients and outpatients (Mastaneh & Mouseli, 2013).
The patients’ rights are broadly concerned with three primary elements. Firstly, the patient has the right to decide whether or not to undergo or continue the medical treatment that he or she is being offered. However, this decision should be arrived at only after the patient has received reasonable explanation and exemplification of what the treatment involves and what associated risks or side effects might arise due to the treatment. Secondly, the patient has the right to access reasonable care that is offered by a skilled nurse. In this respect, the patient is entitled to access health care from qualified nurses who have undergone specific training in the treatment of such diseases. Thirdly, the patient is entitled to confidentiality of all information that pertains to the treatment of the medical conditions that he or she suffers from. Unless explicit consent is given by the patients themselves, their medical information cannot be shared with other people for any purposes (Yakov et al., 2010; Cohen & Ezer, 2013).
However, there are a number of exceptional circumstances that may lead to a nurse not abiding by the patients’ rights. For instance, there might be situations where a patient is physically or mentally unable to comprehend the information that is being relayed by a health care professional. One of the most common cases is when there is an emergency, such as a grievous accident, and the patient is not in a position to make decisions. There is also the possibility that a treatment process is required by the law, like in the case of criminally insane people (Mastaneh & Mouseli, 2013).
Other important rights include the right of the patient to be informed of and to fully understand both the short-term and long-term costs of the medication that has been prescribed. In this situation, it is important for the patient to be capable of making financial decisions regarding the expenditure, so that treatment can be continued without interruptions. If a patient deems the treatment as financially unfeasible or is not in a position to fund the medication, it could result in further complications and speedy deterioration of his or her health. The patient also has the right to obtain advance directives including the power of attorney in case of any eventuality and a living will. At any given time, the patient has the right to discontinue a treatment or medication if they firmly believe that it is aggravating their health or ruining other facets of their life, such as lifestyle and social aspects (van der Reyden & Crouch, 2014; Mastaneh & Mouseli, 2013). However, it is important to note that this right can be infringed upon if the treatment has been sanctioned through legal means. Hospital policies and other facility information need to be communicated to the patient in order to ascertain if the policies and facility rules can conflict with the patient’s point of view in any way. Nurses should also respect the beliefs of the patients, such as religious taboos, cultural values, and social beliefs (Cohen & Ezer, 2013).
Cohen, J. & Ezer, T. (2013). Human rights in patient care: A theoretical and practical framework. Health and Human Rights Journal, 15(2).
Mastaneh, Z. & Mouseli, L. (2013). Patients’ Awareness of Their Rights: Insight from a Developing Country. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 1(2), 143–146
van der Reyden, D. & Crouch, R. (2014). Ethics, Human Rights and the Law in Mental Health Care Practice. Occupational Therapy in Psychiatry and Mental Health, Fifth Edition, 42-58.
Yakov, G., Shilo, Y. & Shor, T. (2010). Nurses’ perceptions of ethical issues related to patients’ rights law. Nursing ethics, 17(4), 501-510.