17-2 Patient’s Have RightsPatients have rights. In India, if any doctor or institution has charged money for a consultationor treatment and if the patient is not happy about the treatment, s/he can file a simple applica-tion in the nearest District Consumer Court (found at District Headquarters) asking for com-pensation.As patients, we have other rights too:* To be informed about their illnessin a simple manner.* To be explained about how exactlyto take their drugs.* To be informed the risks of death inany operation.* To get a copy of the case notes made by atreating hospital / nursing home.* To ask about the experience of the treating surgeon and his record of success for theparticular operation that she has advised the patient.* To get emergency lifesaving treatment at any private nursing home – even withoutpaying the charges — if reaching a government facility may delay and endanger life.
17-3Government must give us our right to health!Where government services are free of cost, the person cannotgo to the consumer court demanding compensation. But she canstill go to a judicial court though the case may get delayed.Our rights regarding government services* Any patient can expect free consultation and basic lifesavingmedicines.* Patients have a right to get a duty doctor at all times in any government hospital for emergen-cies.* The public has a right to know Some states allow this by painting the duties of each function-about the services that are of- ary on the walls of the Primary Health Centre. Anyone readingfered by the government it can ask for her right to see a nurse or a male health workerhealth centre. every fortnight or so.* Patients should know that their interest must lie supreme in the mind of the doctor or the treat-ing facility. If they doubt it, they can complain to the higher authorities or to the State MedicalCouncil in the state capital.* Doctors cannot expect patients to ‘comply’ (obey) with their orders. They must convince patientsto adhere (stick) to the treatment. Patients if they feel confident of the doctor and the treatmentcan stick to the prescription. * A woman has a right to expect another person – a woman attendant or a relative – to be there while a doctor examines her.
17-4 Rights of AIDS patientsPeople fear AIDSThe irrational fear of AIDS has made people divorce their husbands or wives, made employersturn away employees, and prevented people from playing their favourite sport. With nowhere togo, with no government being able to give a reasonable hope of treatment, where will happen toAIDS patients ? They too are sick. They too need care. They need understanding.Why are AIDS patients discriminated against?AIDS patients are blamed most of the time for their disease.Most people feel that they “deserve” what they have got.Blame is heaped on ‘homosexuals” (or gays), on men whovisit prostitutes, on prostitutes who entertain men, on ad-dicts who share needles, and on every other person whogets AIDS. The general feeling is that AIDS patients have“brought it upon themselves” and so deserve no care or re-spect. Instead of understanding and sympathy for getting adisease which has no cure, AIDS patients are disliked andfeared.This fear spreads to doctors and people who have to givehealth care – nurses, health workers etc. Though the situa-tion has improved slightly over the years because of mas-sive education and awareness of the public, yet we have along way to go before we can give AIDS patients the dignity and respect and care which theydeserve. As health workers we must know and practise rights of AIDS patients.Rights of AIDS PatientsCounselling : If any person goes for an AIDS test, s/he has the right to get counselling before andafter the blood test. This helps the person deal with the anxiety if the result of the test is positive ornegative.Confidentiality : To prevent unnecessary discrimination against HIV positive patients, doctorsare not allowed to tell anyone the name or address of a HIV positive patient. As health workers, we are duty bound not to let anyone else know the illness of a patient; if the interests of others come in the way of such a deci- sion, we need to be careful and if possible, give the information without naming the person. Understanding & sensitivity : AIDS patients need our under- standing and sensitivity and not our blame. We as health work- ers must not discriminate against them. No one should learn that they have tested positive for HIV so that others are not biased against them: we need to protect their privacy. Even if the person is married, we must tell the wife or husband about their illness after informing the patients or seeking their per- mission. Practise care of AIDS patients and teach others not to fear but understand and love patients of AIDS.