‘When patients know their rights, hospitals will be more receptive to their demands’
A medical graduate-cum-public rights activist in the city has brought out a handbook to raise awareness of patients’ rights, in the hope that people and healthcare providers can resolve issues amicably.
Mohamed Khader Meeran, 27, who completed his MBBS degree from Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences, Sevagram, in Maharashtra in 2020, and is a NEET aspirant for postgraduate studies, was inspired to write ‘Patients’ rights in India’ to specify the legal means of redress available in the wake of rising number of complaints related to hospitals and treatment options, especially during the pandemic.
He has been in the news for his advocacy work, notably for filing a public interest litigation (PIL) in Madras High Court, to launch online right to information (RTI) filing facility in Tamil Nadu State’s government departments in 2017. “Last year, there was a lot of misinformation being circulated about COVID-19. Patients’ health status details, which were meant to be confidential, were leaked through social media. Many hospitals were overcharging. Initially I was getting calls from within Tamil Nadu [for help], but as I had studied in Maharashtra, and was part of many student unions, we began coordinating with doctors there, to arrange for beds. This is when we felt that a handbook would be useful to tell patients about their rights,” Dr. Meeran told The Hindu.
Among the issues covered in the book are right to information; safe and quality treatment; seeking a second medical opinion, and so on. Initially published last year in Tamil, the English version of ‘Patients’ Rights …’, which was launched in October this year, is more detailed, with sections on government-sponsored health insurance schemes and contact details for grievance resolution.
“There are both legal and ethical angles when a patient comes for treatment. Since ethics is a vast field, I have narrowed it down to specific issues, such as cost of definitive treatment for ailments according to the patient’s paying capacity. We are focusing on how financial compensation can be accessed by patients,” said Dr. Meeran.
In real world
Case studies and legal rulings on medical issues help readers to understand how these rights work in the real world.
A chapter on alternative medicine calls for greater understanding between practitioners of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) and modern medicine. “There are evidence-based treatments for some ailments in both systems, but alternative therapists should understand their limits, and advise their patients to seek assistance from modern medicine when necessary,” said Dr. Meeran.
When the patients know their rights, hospitals and medical authorities will be more receptive to their demands, he feels. “Patients’ rights are not taught in medical schools, because of which violence against healthcare professionals is rampant in India. This book could help reduce such instances,” he said.
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