Understanding your rights
Know your rights and stand up for them.
As you navigate the healthcare system,
it’s important to remember that you
have legal rights that protect your
privacy and access to your medical
records. You also have the
right to expect respectful and
considerate treatment from
your doctors, nurses, and
other healthcare providers.
If you feel that your legal or
personal rights are not being
respected but are uncomfortable
raising objections on your own,
it’s a good idea to enlist the help
of a family member or friend to
advocate on your behalf. There’s
no reason to allow the situation
In 1973, the American Hospital Association
(AHA) drafted a bill of rights outlining what
people being treated for all illnesses should expect
to receive from their hospitals, doctors, and nurses.
The AHA encourages hospitals and healthcare
organizations across the country to comply with
the bill of rights, and in many states patients’
rights are legally binding.
According to the Patient’s Bill of Rights, you
are entitled to:
- Receive care that is respectful and considerate.
- Be given complete, accurate information in
straightforward language about your diagnosis,
prognosis, and treatment plan.
- Make decisions about your treatment, and
- Expect privacy and confidentiality about your
diagnosis and treatment.
- Review and keep a copy of your medical records,
and have them explained to you.
- Have access to resources for resolving
grievances, disputes, and conflicts.
- Be informed of and understand your rights as a patient at the facility.
Expect the best
When choosing among treatment
facilities, make sure to investigate
how their official policies measure up
against your treatment philosophy and
priorities, as well as the Patient’s Bill
of Rights. You’ll also want to research
with the people in
their care, including
from former patients if available, to
make sure their policies are carried
out in practice.
Most hospitals provide a version
of their policies in straightforward
language. Federal law requires that
any hospital accepting Medicare
reimbursement inform you about
your legal rights.
But medical facilities should go
even further to protect your interests
and make you feel
they answer your
questions and the
attitude of the
staff as a whole
can often tell you a lot about how
you’ll be treated in their care.
Some facilities provide patient relations
departments, patient advocates,
or ombudsmen, to help ensure there’s
a way to make your concerns known.
If not, you can discuss the problem
with your doctor, or
with the hospital
the problem isn’t
resolved. If the
improve, you may want to consider
seeking treatment at a facility that
shares your treatment philosophy and
is committed to protecting your rights.
Protecting your privacy
You entrust detailed personal
and medical information to your
healthcare providers during cancer
treatment, so it’s important to
know that it will remain confidential.
Your right to privacy in the field of
healthcare is protected by a set of
federal regulations issued under the
Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (HIPAA).
HIPAA regulates the way healthcare
providers, like doctors, pharmacies,
and insurance companies, are
able to share your Protected Health
Information, such as your medical
condition as well as your name,
address, and Social Security number.
For example, your primary care
physician can provide another doctor
with any medical records or personal
information in order to give you better
care, or to help you in an emergency
For operations, treatment billing,
and insurance purposes, however,
providers are allowed to give only the
minimum amount of necessary information.
And in order to share any data
with an outside business, like a life
insurance company, a provider must
have your written consent.
To make sure you know about
the practices they follow, healthcare
providers must give you a notification
of privacy practices, explaining exactly
how your medical information will be
used. HIPAA also allows you the right
to access your own medical records,
and to request corrections of any
errors you find.