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THE PATIENT'S RIGHTS

  1. TO HAVE AS MUCH INFORMATION AS YOU WISH ABOUT THE ILLNESS.
    You see the doctor in order to gain an understanding of your health. It is a service you pay for. You have the right to know your diagnosis, prognosis, about alternate forms of treatment, what your doctor recommends and why he believes his recommendations are the best course of action. If you continue to have problems with your health and a diagnosis has not been reached, you should have an explanation of why not. Also, if further tests are needed they should be explained to you. It *your* body and *your* health that are at stake here. You wouldn't take your car in to a mechanic and let him begin tinkering around in the engine without telling you what he was doing and why first. You shouldn't allow a doctor to do the equivalent with your body without being informed of what's going on.

  2. TO BE ALLOWED ENOUGH TIME FOR QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS ABOUT PROBLEMS.
    When we first hear our diagnosis or have new medical terms thrown at us, we are often taken off guard. We tend to forget some of the information we are told, or don't think of the questions we want to ask until later. You should have an opportunity both at the initial visit and at subsequent times to discuss your problems. It is helpful to write your questions down as you think of them, and take them with you to refer to, and as a reminder, on your next visit.

  3. TO HAVE REASONABLE ACCESS TO YOUR DOCTOR.
    You and your doctor should agree on what you consider "reasonable access" in advance. Your idea of what constitutes reasonable access may widely differ from his. If so, you may be able to reach a compromise. If not, it's good to find this out early so that you can find another doctor.

  4. TO PARTICIPATE IN MAJOR DECISIONS IN YOUR CARE.
    Participation is not only the right but also the responsibility of the patient. It is important to be well educated about your illness and you must ask questions so your decisions are as informed as possible. You and your family are the main persons affected by your illness, not your doctor.

  5. KNOW YOUR DOCTOR'S NONOFFICE-HOUR AVAILABILITY AND PROVISIONS FOR COVERAGE OF PATIENTS DURING THOSE TIMES.
    Emergencies, accidents, and crises don't always occur during office hours. Who is available to cover for your own doctor during nights, weekends, and holidays? It is a good idea to meet the covering doctors so you can decide whether you can work with them. If there are special conditions, treatments, adverse reactions, preferences, be sure to have your own doctor write them clearly in your chart so that the covering doctor can refer to them. Remember the substitute may be your doctor during your most vulnerable and neediest times.

  6. DETERMINE WHO OTHER THAN THE DOCTOR SHALL HAVE ACCESS TO INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR HEALTH.
    The relationship of the physician and the patient is confidential. Normally you will be asked to sign a release form authorizing your files to be released to your insurance companies, or in special instances to compensation boards, or other physicians. In some cases where a disease is infectious or otherwise might affect the health of others (e.g. hepatitis), the doctor is legally obligated to report the condition to governmental authorities.

  7. KNOW IN ADVANCE THE APPROXIMATE AMOUNT OF CHARGES AND POSSIBLE ARRANGEMENTS FOR PAYMENT.
    It is necessary to determine if you can afford the charges and to find out if your insurance will cover them. It is *not* poor taste to ask about charges in advance. If you cannot afford the charges, ask your doctor if they will work out a sliding scale based on your ability to pay (many will). Determine *exactly* what the charges include, and whether things such as laboratory tests and x-rays are included in them. Also, check in *advance* what your insurance will cover as well as the amount of the deductible.

  8. BE SEEN WITHIN A REASONABLE TIME OF THE SCHEDULED APPOINTMENT.
    Sometimes unexpected problems and emergencies come up with other patients that may cause a delay in your appointment time. These situations can't be helped and aren't the doctor's fault. A half-hour wait probably isn't unreasonable as long as you are informed of the delay. If your doctor is chronically late you should decide if this is just too much of a waste of time or annoyance to you, and if so, choose another doctor who is able to keep his apointments within a reasonable amount of time.

  9. CHANGE PHYSICIANS IF A BREAKDOWN IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP OCCURS AND HAVE YOUR RECORDS TRANSFERRED TO YOUR NEW DOCTOR.
    Sometimes things happen. As in any other relationship there can be personality conflicts, or perhaps your opinions on how your case should be treated just don't agree. Or maybe the needed confidence just isn't there. If this happens, do not allow it to continue. Find another doctor who you can trust and get along with.

© 2003 California Hepatitis Resource Center