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Your Rights Matter

Can you do anything to improve your care in a hospital?

Just how powerless are you when you're hospitalized?

Is there anything you can do, as the patient, to assert yourself if you feel like you are receiving substandard or inadequate care?

Absolutely. Here are some important things that everyone should know about being a patient in a hospital:

1. You can usually get help with a problem through the hospital's Patient Advocate. While the Patient Advocate is employed by the hospital, he or she is there to help address your concerns and assert your rights.

While small complaints, like the temperature of your room or the quality of the food you are given, are best dealt with through the nursing staff directly, a serious issue should be directed toward the Patient Advocate. For example, if you feel like the doctor assigned to your care is dismissive of your concerns or demeaning to you, that's a big problem. The Patient Advocate may be able to resolve the issue through better communication or have another doctor assigned to your case.

2. You are not a prisoner. If you decide that the treatment is ineffective, the care is substandard or you are actually being harmed instead of helped, you have the right to leave and seek treatment elsewhere.

Many patients feel intimidated at the prospect of refusing a specific course of treatment or asserting their right to end the care. After all, the doctor is supposed to be the expert. If he or she says that you need to remain there and have more tests and more treatment, who are you to argue?

You are the person living in your body, that's who. As long as you are of sound mind, you can demand to be released from care.

It's important to understand that leaving a hospital "against medical advice," or AMA, does generally relieve the hospital of responsibility if staying would have prevented you from some future problem that develops. However, that's no reason to endure inadequate care or treatments that you think may actually be hurting you -- nor does it relieve the hospital of any liability for an injury they caused while you were still in their care. Another hospital may actually uncover and document the prior facility's negligence, should you seek care elsewhere.

An attorney can provide more information on what you can do if you were the victim of hospital negligence.

Source: Health Net Federal Services, "Hospital Patient Advocates Are There to Help You," accessed June 16, 2017

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