While the doctors, nurses and hospital administration employees may have the best intentions, ethical and legal violations still occur in hospitals. Consequently, every hospital has a document that spells out their patients’ rights. There are many rights that you’re entitled to as a patient. It’s important that you be able to recognize medical malpractice, as well as know about your right to emergency care and your right to informed consent.
What is Medical Malpractice?
No doubt you’ve heard about medical malpractice because it’s a subject often covered by the media, but do you know exactly what it means other than a patient suing a hospital, doctor, or health care professional. Specifically, would you recognize a case of medical malpractice if it happened to you or a loved one?
Schwartzapfel malpractice lawyers in NYC provide a good working definition. They say that medical malpractice occurs when “…a healthcare provider does not meet established standards of medical care because of negligence, lack of communication, or diagnostic error….”
So, as a result of an avoidable error by a healthcare provider, a patient suffers a serious injury and in a worst-case scenario, a family may file a malpractice lawsuit for death by negligence.
Your Right to Emergency Care
Many people do not realize that they are protected by the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act (EMTALA. It states that someone has the right to go to a hospital and expect medical treatment in an emergency even if they don’t have health insurance or can’t afford to pay out of pocket.
An emergency can be any life-threatening situation or one that would cause serious harm if you did not get medical treatment. People require emergency care for all sorts of reasons, such as an accident, a critical illness, or active labor.
A hospital must give you a medical screening examination and either give you sufficient treatment to stabilize your condition or transfer you to a hospital that can help you.
Your Right to Informed Consent
The right to know what treatment you will receive and your consent to receive it is a fundamental patient right. The word “informed” in the term informed consent is important because consent alone is not enough.
A hospital must tell you about all the benefits and risks of your medical treatment, as well as provide you with other available options, including refusing any treatment at all. Your consent is only legally valid if you’ve been fully informed.
You may also ask questions to get satisfactory answers. You don’t have to give your consent right away but can discuss the matter with your family or medical advisers. However, discussing the matter with others may not be possible if you need emergency treatment and time is of the essence.
Informed consent also includes:
- Your right to receive information
- about your treatment in the language of your choice.
- Your right to have the information
- presented to you in a way you can understand if you have mental, speech, or hearing impairments.
- Your right to know the names
- of the people who will provide your healthcare.
- Your right to know after
- a medical procedure if doctors or nurses made an error. For instance, if the surgeon took out the wrong kidney or a nurse gave you the wrong medication.
Ask for the Hospital’s Patient Advocate
If you know your rights as a patient, you can protect yourself. If you feel the hospital has violated any of your rights, talk to the hospital’s patient advocate. Although they are hospital employees, they are legally obligated to openly listen to patients complaints and address the issues fairly.