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Your Rights In A Hospital


Between federal and state laws and voluntary compliance by most hospitals, you have a broad arsenal of rights while in a hospital. The rights are summed up in a Bill of Rights published by American Hospital Association (AHA). You may have even greater protections provided by the laws of the state in which you are hospitalized.

The AHA's Bill of Rights is provided below. There's no reason to memorize it. Most hospitals will give you a copy when you enter the hospital. If you don't get a copy, feel free to ask for one.

If you enter the hospital through the Emergency Room, reading the Bill of Rights will help you pass the waiting time.

NOTE: Historically hospitals could set rules about when you can receive visitors as well as which visitors. Thanks to a 2010 rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) it is now up to the individual to determine which visitors are to be permitted during visiting times. Basically this means that no visitor can be discriminated against by hospitals, including same-sex partners. The rules are applicable to all patients of hospitals that receive funds from Medicare or Medicaid regardless of payer source.

American Hospital Association Patient Bill Of Rights

A designated surrogate can exercise the rights described in the following American Hospital Association Patient Bill of Rights ( offsite link) on the patient's behalf or proxy decision maker if the patient lacks decision-making capacity, is legally incompetent, or is a minor. NOTE: you don't have to memorize this list or even take a copy to the hospital with you. You have a right to a copy on admission to a hospital.

  1. The patient has the right to considerate and respectful care and treatment without respect to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or source of payment.
  2. The patient has the right to and is encouraged to obtain from physicians and other direct caregivers relevant, current, and understandable information concerning diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.
  3. The exception is emergency situations when the patient lacks decision-making capacity and the need for treatment is urgent. The patient is entitled to the opportunity to discuss and request information related to specific procedures and/or treatments, the risks involved, the possible length of recuperation, and the medically reasonable alternatives and their accompanying risks and benefits.
  4. Patients have the right to know the identity of physicians, nurses, and others involved in their care, as well as when those involved are students, residents, or other trainees. The patient also has the right to know the immediate and long-term financial implications of treatment choices, insofar as they are known.
  5. The patient has the right to make decisions about the plan of care prior to and during the course of treatment and to refuse a recommended treatment or plan of care to the extent permitted by law and hospital policy and to be informed of the medical consequences of this action. In case of such refusal, the patient is entitled to other appropriate care and services that the hospital provides or transfer to another hospital. The hospital should notify patients of any policy that might affect patient choice within the institution.
  6. The patient has the right to have an advance directive (such as a living will, health care proxy, or durable power of attorney for health care) concerning treatment or designating a surrogate decision maker with the expectation that the hospital will honor the intent of that directive to the extent permitted by law and hospital policy.
  7. Health care institutions must advise patients of their rights under state law and hospital policy to make informed medical choices, ask if the patient has an advance directive, and include that information in patient records. The patient has the right to timely information about hospital policy that may limit its ability to implement fully a legally valid advance directive. If for any reason, a patient does not understand his rights or needs help in understanding them, the hospital must provide assistance, including an interpreter.
  8. The patient has the right to every consideration of privacy. Case discussion, consultation, examination, and treatment should be conducted so as to protect each patient's privacy.
  9. The patient has the right to expect that all communications and records pertaining to his/her care will be treated as confidential by the hospital, except in cases such as suspected abuse and public health hazards when reporting is permitted or required by law. The patient has the right to expect that the hospital will emphasize the confidentiality of this information when it releases it to any other parties entitled to review information in these records.
  10. The patient has the right to review the records (without charge) pertaining to his/her medical care and to have the information explained or interpreted as necessary, except when restricted by law. The hospital may charge a reasonable fee for a copy of the patient's medical records, but cannot be denied a copy solely because the patient can't afford it.
  11. The patient has the right to expect that, within its capacity and policies, a hospital will make reasonable response to the request of a patient for appropriate and medically indicated care and services. The hospital must provide evaluation, service, and/or referral as indicated by the urgency of the case. When medically appropriate and legally permissible, or when a patient has so requested, a patient may be transferred to another facility. The institution to which the patient is to be transferred must first have accepted the patient for transfer. The patient must also have the benefit of complete information and explanation concerning the need for, risks, benefits, and alternatives to such a transfer.
  12. The patient has the right to ask and be informed of the existence of business relationships among the hospital, educational institutions, other health care providers, or payers that may influence the patient's treatment and care.
  13. The patient has the right to consent to or decline to participate in proposed research studies or human experimentation affecting care and treatment or requiring direct patient involvement, and to have those studies fully explained prior to consent. A patient who declines to participate in research or experimentation is entitled to the most effective care that the hospital can otherwise provide.
  14. The patient has the right to expect reasonable continuity of care when appropriate and to be informed by physicians and other caregivers of available and realistic patient care options when hospital care is no longer appropriate.
  15. The patient has the right to be informed of hospital policies and practices that relate to patient care, treatment, and responsibilities. The patient has the right to be informed of available resources for resolving disputes, grievances, and conflicts, such as ethics committees, patient representatives, or other mechanisms available in the institution. The patient has the right to complain without fear of reprisal and the hospital is required to respond, in writing if requested. If the patient is not satisfied with the hospital's response, the hospital in most states is required to provide the patient the telephone number of the state's Health Department.
  16. The patient has the right to be informed of the hospital's charges for services and available payment methods and to receive an itemized bill and explanation of charges.
  17. The hospital must provide the patient with a written discharge plan and a description of how to appeal a discharge plan.
  18. The hospital must provide a smoke free room.
  19. The patient has the right to receive all information necessary to provide informed consent for an order not to resuscitate. You have the right to designate an individual to give consent.
  20. The patient has the right to emergency care if needed.
  21. The patient has the right to authorize family members and other adults to be given priority to visit the patient depending on patient's ability to receive visitors.
  22. The patient has the right to specify his wishes pertaining to any anatomical gifts, that is donating organs.

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