The Bill of Rights was developed to help empower patients to ask for and receive the treatment they deserve. The patients' Bill of Rights is a compilation of rights to which each patient is entitled during hospitalization. It covers such basic items as the right to privacy, to refuse treatments, and to know the identity of one's treating physician. Although these rights are generally assumed and honored, the Bill of Rights establishes a standard set of expectations for both hospital personnel and patients. Unfortunately, many patients and even some hospital personnel are not familiar with the contents of the Bill of Rights.
First Patients' Bill of Rights
The first Bill of Rights was approved by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in February, 1973. The Minnesota legislature adopted the idea and established a version of the Bill of Rights in 1973 that was similar to the AHA version. It has since been adopted and modified many times. In Minnesota it has been revised seven times to include new and more comprehensive rights. Additionally, a separate Bill of Rights has been prepared for residents in long-term care facilities. A number of states mandate that hospitals have a Bill of Rights.
How to Find the Bill of Rights
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations now requires that all hospitals have a Bill of Rights. A copy of these rights must be given to each patient or parent on admission. Additionally, a copy of the Bill of Rights should be posted at entrances and other prominent places throughout the hospital.
Often the Bill of Rights is included in a thick packet of papers given to patients or their families at admission. It can get lost in the many other papers that families receive at the same time. You should look through it to know your rights.
Examples of Patients' Rights
The following are examples of some of a patient's rights in Minnesota. These rights may vary by hospital and state. Contact your hospital for a complete list of your rights. Patients have the right to:
- Their physician's name, business address, telephone number, and specialty. This may seem unnecessary but when there are multiple specialists or resident doctors involved with your care, you may not always know who is coordinating your care.
- Refuse care based on a full discussion of the proposed treatments and alternatives.
- Keep and use personal clothing.
- Have minors and parents involved in the treatment plan.
- Use the telephone to speak privately.