Many patients in hospitals and 24/7 care facilities rely on their nurses and caregivers for the most basic of activities like sitting up, drinking, eating, standing to go to the bathroom, and changing out of their dirty clothes. Sadly, reports of widespread neglect and violations of patients’ rights persist today.
While there are regulatory bodies and healthcare professionals who keep watch and do everything they can to prevent these incidents, there’s only so much they can do to ensure that every patient receives quality care. As such, it is crucial for patients and their families to be aware of their rights and recognize when they are being violated.
In this blog, we’ll delve into the quality of care patients should receive, examples of patient rights violations you need to watch out for, and actions you can take when dealing with patient’s rights violations in California.
What Patient Rights Are Most Often Violated?
Reports of patient’s rights violations in California involve the elderly, disabled, and sickly – those who are checked into long-term care facilities and are supposed to given 24/7 monitoring, care, and medical assistance.
The most common examples of patient rights violations go against the California Code of Regulations for Patients’ Rights in Skilled Nursing Facilities. Here are some examples:
- Understaffing (considered a primary cause of patient rights violations).
- Failure to provide quality care and proper nursing services.
- Failure to adequately educate patients and help them make informed decisions about their treatment plans.
- Failure to protect a patient against abuse from healthcare providers or other patients.
- Disrespecting patients and refusing to treat them with dignity (this snowballs into abysmal services, like neglecting to change dirty beddings, clean a patient’s room, administer medication on time, or give the elderly or bedridden patients a bath or change of clothes).
- Mistreating a patient because of their ethnicity, gender identity, country of origin, etc.
- Disregarding a patient’s requests and claiming that they are making hysterical demands.
- Administering unnecessary psychotropic medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and stimulants without medical supervision or the patient’s or family’s express consent.
Why Are Patient’s Rights Important?
The above violations can cause a patient’s physical and mental health to deteriorate faster instead of improving. Patients in skilled nursing facilities who require constant supervision are already vulnerable because of their medical conditions. Thus, it’s dangerous if those patients are left in the care of people who disregard their comfort and safety and neglect their duties as healthcare providers.
The elderly, disabled, and sickly are easy targets for neglect and abuse, especially in facilities that care more about their own bottom line and keeping business afloat than providing appropriate care for their patients. Unfortunately, the physical, mental, and emotional toll of a patient’s experience can have significant consequences. Whether you are a legal guardian, family member, or a patient yourself, it’s crucial to be informed about patients’ rights, recognize the signs of neglect and abuse, and know what to do when these rights are violated.
Lawful, Ethical, and Human Rights
Patients in the American healthcare system enjoy rights guaranteed by federal law, primarily to protect patients dealing with health insurance companies.
- HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996
- 2010 Patient Bill of Rights under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Ethical medical practices and basic human rights also substantially impact patients’ rights. Finally, some U.S. states have their own bill of rights for patients and special laws and regulations for mental health patients, hospice patients, and patients in hospitals.
In California, for example, the Code of Regulations includes Patients’ Rights for each of the following health facilities, agencies, clinics, and referral agencies:
- General Acute Care Hospitals
- Acute Psychiatric Hospitals
- Skilled Nursing Facilities
- Intermediate Care Facilities
- Home Health Agencies
- Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled
- Psychiatric Health Facilities
- Adult Day Health Centers
- Correctional Treatment Centers
Just recently, on August 19, 2021, California also passed the Cancer Patients’ Bill of Rights.
If you’re wondering what are your rights as a patient in California, you can read up on the code of regulations for the facility where you will be checking in as a patient. To summarize, the next section will focus on their commonalities.
What Are Your Rights as a Patient in California?
The following are the key points of every Patients’ Bill of Rights in the state:
The Right to Information
All patients have a right to provide informed consent – an ethical process in which a healthcare provider educates a patient about the benefits and risks of a procedure or intervention that could cure their illness and alternative treatments and their risks and benefits. If the physician recommends a treatment beyond routine medical procedures, they should disclose as much information about it as possible.
Additionally, suppose the patient is more proficient in another language besides English or has a mental or physical disability that hinders direct communication between the doctor and the patient. In that case, the facility must proactively seek assistance to help the patient make fully informed decisions about their care.
The Right to Choose Providers
It’s customary for doctors to refer patients to other facilities when they need treatment outside of their expertise or if they believe a patient can receive better care from a specialist or in another, more equipped facility. Unfortunately, some physicians overstep their authority and disregard the patient’s preferences.
California gives patients the right to choose a specialist or facility they believe can give them the best care. This applies to referrals to specialists, home health care, long-term facilities, and other healthcare professionals.
The Right to Emergency Treatment
In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA), which gives patients the right to receive medical screening examinations (MSE) from hospitals whose emergency departments receive payments from Medicare regardless of their citizenship, legal status, ability to pay, and whether or not they have Medicare insurance.
The Right to Refuse Treatment
Conversely, a patient has every right to decline treatment even if it goes against the grain for doctors and healthcare professionals who are under oath to protect lives and ensure their patients’ health.
The Right to Respect and Non-Discrimination
All patients must be respected and treated with dignity and respect regardless of their sex, race, age, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran or military status, or any other basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law. Patients can demand fair and humane treatment from their nurses, caregivers, doctors, and other healthcare providers.
The Right to Privacy
Patients are often most vulnerable while in a hospital or long-term care facility. Fortunately, they have the right to keep conversations with doctors regarding their medical diagnosis and prescriptions, treatment plans, health insurance policies, psychiatric information, and other medical records as private as they wish.
Patients also reserve the right to read and copy their medical records. They may ask for physical privacy if they feel vulnerable in the sight or company of other patients and people.
Other Rights of Patients in a Nursing Home
Patients checked into California nursing homes are also entitled to the following:
- Receive visitors
- Be treated with dignity and respect
- Appoint trusted family members or legal representatives to make decisions on their behalf when they can no longer do so
- Have money and material possessions
- Receive proper medical care and treatment
- Freedom from restraint
- Freedom from and protection against abuse
- Fair and non-discriminatory treatment
If you believe that any of these rights are being violated, you can file a complaint with the facility administration or report the violations to the State of California. Depending on the circumstances, you might also have to consider taking legal steps against the facility. This begs the question – do you need a lawyer, or can you go it alone?
Get Fair Representation From Holm Law Group
The answer to this question is that, if you are considering filing a lawsuit, you should consult with an experienced elder abuse and neglect attorney. This is because proving that a facility has violated someone’s patients’ rights and seeking just compensation is a tough battle that can be difficult to win on your own.
Holm Law Group fights tirelessly for the legal, ethical, and human rights of patients subjected to neglect and abuse. We especially fight for elderly patients and their loved ones, and amplify their voices in court. We do more than just the legal legwork. We ease our clients’ stress and worry as we navigate a complex legal system.Get committed lawyers to fight for your right to receive quality care and the compensation that you deserve.
Request a free case evaluation from Holm Law Group today.