Rights Relating to Patient Abuse

Human, civil, and patient rights are complicated. Below is a summary of important rights you should keep in the forefront of your mind. Additional resources have been linked to provide more information. This is not legal advice. Contact an attorney as appropriate. As a person living in the United States, you have the following rights in regard to medical treatment.

  • Right to refuse treatment and leave against medical advice – Unless the doctor has substantial reason to feel you are a danger or a danger to others, you can walk away from the hospital. If a medical provider tries to detain you, they could be found guilty of wrongful imprisonment. If they say you are a danger to yourself or others, they have to complete a 72 hold for emergency involuntary commitment.
  • Right to informed consent – Not only do you have the right to refuse care but you have the right to ask questions. As many as you like and to the doctor. The nurses should not keep you from speaking to a doctor if you ask. (That is abnormal.) They are supposed to provide you with a clear non-medical explanation of any recommended treatment or procedures. This mean you should be explained the benefits, risks, and reasons for recommendation.
  • Patients have the right to dignity – This means that the medical staff should treat you with respect. They should not degrade you or embarrass you. Medical staff should not laugh about your medical condition. They should comport themselves professionally.
  • Right to privacy – Your information should be kept private. Medical staff should not talk about your medical information where other people can hear it. This means they shouldn’t be talking loudly in the hall way. They should keep the door closed when they speak to you and knock before they enter the room.
  • Any illegally obtained information is inadmissible in court. If someone takes your phone without person, contents of the phone can not be used against you in court. If someone tortured you to get you to give them the code of your phone, the contents of the phone will never make it to a jury.
  • Even if you have a substance dependency or a mental health issue, your rights are the same as everyone else’s rights. Knowing them and how to report violations is important.
  • HIPAA – This legislation should be fairly familiar. What’s important to know is that you have a right to gain access to your complete medical record and the medical practice has to provide it to you in 30 days. They are not allowed to put undue requirements or barriers to you gaining access to it. They can not share it without your permission. You can report HIPAA violations very easily and they will be investigated.
  • Medical interrogation – The use of medical knowledge to interrogate a patient is strictly against the Declaration of Geneva. (This is basically the code of ethics for medical providers.) It is also a federal offense. This means that if a nurse or doctor uses medications or threat of harm derived from their medical knowledge, they could go to jail for a very long time. They will likely lose their medical license.
  • Medical torture – If a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, or other medically trained person uses medical knowledge to intentionally inflict harm on someone in a manner that constitutes medical torture, that is also a violation of the Declaration of Geneva. You will probably know if you have been tortured, but if you are not sure review the links here. This is a federal crime and the FBI has jurisdiction in many cases. If you are afraid to go to the local police, you can contact the FBI. If found guilty, they will definitely lose their medical license.
  • You have up to 2 years to file a civil lawsuit. If you can’t find a local attorney to take your case, you can use an attorney directory. Avoid giving a statement to the patient advocate without an attorney if you can.
  • WV is a one party consent state. You can record any phone call or conversation you participate in without the other person’s consent. That is admissible in court. Even if they ask you not to record it, you still can. Record all of them. Whether it is admissible in court, it will be helpful to have a record of everything they said.

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