Your Rights as a Patient and Duties of a Doctor – EXPLAINED!

This post is about your rights as a patient as well as statutory responsibilities of a doctor in a hospital or any treatment settings.

Your Rights as a Patient and Duties of a Doctor

There are statutory duties which doctors owe their patients to protect the patients from negligence or malpractice. It is important that you know these duties, so as to properly exercise your rights.

Hospitals like University of Benin teaching hospital, put these rights on a plaque outside the hospital for all to see, even though it is summarized.

A doctor owes the patient a standard of care. Due diligence must be exercised and prudence. Suitable equipment In good state of repair must be used. Patients are also not to be experimented on. The patient must be referred to a specialist when necessary.


Your Rights as a patient

1. Right to Knowledge of Hospital Rules and Regulations

A patient has the right to know the clinic /hospital rules and regulations and charges before getting admitted or treated in that hospital.

When you go to the hospital, you have a right to know the rules in the hospital such as the visiting times, hospital policy etc. You also have a right to know the amount of the procedure you will undergo before such treatment is administered.

2. Right to Privacy and Confidentiality of Personal Information 

A patient has absolute right to privacy, consultation, physical Examination, discussion, procedure and treatment. The communication between a doctor and the patient is privileged.

This means that the doctor cannot under any circumstance, disclose any medical examination of the patient, irrespective of whether it was provided directly by the patient through a medical examination, or treatment or documentation.

A breach of confidentiality occurs when this privileged communication has been disclosed to a third party without the patient’s consent.

It is irrelevant that the disclosure was oral or written or communicated electronically.

The exception to this rule is where

*The law requires it to be disclosed. Any competent court can order that the doctor releases a patient’s medical records.

*In public interest. Situations which may result to death or serious injury due to non disclosure of the medical records.

For example, the case of the Ebola nurse who ran to Enugu after being diagnosed with Ebola virus disease, her records were made public because failure to do so will result in death of members of the public.

Also, in the case of a homicidal mental patient, who constitutes a danger to himself and the public.


3. Right to informed consent

An informed consent is a voluntary agreement to a medical procedure. Since the doctor in a fiduciary capacity in the relationship with the patients, it is necessary for him to let them know everything concerning the procedure.
It involves ;

• Explanation of the procedures to be followed.

• Description of any discomfort or risk to be anticipated.

• Disclosure of alternative procedures that may be used.

• Reminding the patient that he has a right to withdraw his consent or discontinue treatment at any time.

What happens when the patient is incapable of Giving informed consent such as in the case of a child, insane, or in a coma? In this case, a family member, spouse, or guardian adult may make thus decision in the place of the patient.

Failure to obtain this consent form a patient before a procedure would make the doctor liable in torts for assault and battery.

Misrepresentation of the facts of the procedure will also amount to battery even if it is to save the life of the patient.

A doctor must not psychologically manipulate a patient into having a particular medical procedure. A patient’s right cannot be abridged with the intention of protecting him.

There is no exception to this rule. Surgical ethics does not surpass this rule.


4. Right to Self Decision

A patient has the right to refuse reasonable treatment even if it is unreasonable to do so. A doctor cannot under any circumstance, force treatment on a patient, not even to save his life.

If the patient refuses the procedures the doctor prescribes for his cure, the doctor cannot force him to take it. Some persons refuse orthodox treatment, while others reject blood transfusions or organ transplant.

No matter how stupid the decision may seem, the right to refuse is guaranteed by the Constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria.

A doctor must report the following to the authorities ;

• Any case of injury and burns which may arouse suspicion

• Any case of vehicular, factory, or unnatural accidents, especially when their is likelihood of death or grievous injury.

• Evidence of sexual assault or molestation

• Cases of suspected or evident criminal abortion.

• Cases of suspected or evident poisoning or intoxication.

• Cases referred from court for age estimation.

• Cases of people brought in dead to the hospital with improper history creating suspicion of an offence.

• Cases of suspected self-infliction of injuries or attempted suicide.

It is important to request for full information about whatever is being done to treat you. Most of the procedures used by doctors have terrible side effects, but seem to be more enriching to the hospital, so they opt for it at your expenses lady lost an eye when a hospital lured her into removing a cataract which was not life threatening in any way.

The cases are too numerous to mention. There are drugs whose side effects can lead to deafness, blindness, intense itching, and a host of others,it is your right to know what is being done to your body, so don’t be shy to ask your doctor.

So many people have lost their lives as a result of ignorance,please don’t add to the statistics.

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Bar. Princess Ogono is a Legal Practitioner and Content Developer at InfoGuide Nigeria is a team of Resource Persons and Consultants led by Ifiokobong Roberts. Page maintained by Ifiokobong Roberts. If you need a personal assistance on this topic, kindly contact us.

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