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Fate of Charter of Patients' Rights hangs in balance

Fate of Charter of Patients Rights hangs in balance

New Delhi: It seems the fate of Charter of Patients' Rights may hang in the balance as despite making the draft of the charter public in August last year by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), the government is yet to move an inch for its implementation.

The Charter of Patients' Rights that was prepared by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) was to be implemented across the country through state governments to provide proper healthcare to patients and protect them from being 'exploited' by private hospitals.

Besides seeking comments/suggestions from different stakeholders on the issue, the Health Ministry has not even bothered to take a stock of the status of the Charter.

"The Ministry had in August 2018 asked all the stakeholders to submit their comments in 30 days, which means by September end the Health Ministry, might had got the suggestions from all the sections of the society. If all had gone as per the plan, the charter would had been implemented, but it's nowhere till now," said an activist.

According to sources in the Health Ministry, some noted doctors are objecting to the implementation of the Charter of Patients' Rights. "Most of institutions and experts are in favour of implementation of the charter related to patients' rights, but there is 'strong lobby' of doctors which is not in favour of its implementation," the sources said, adding that the provision to allow patients to leave hospital even without paying the dues would create the situation of anarchy.

As per the sources, the doctors' lobby has also pointed out that in case of disputes over bill discrepancies; the patients can easily go home while medical practitioners would visit courts to 'settle' the case. As per the charter, every patient would get a right to have relevant information about the nature, cause of illness, provisional/confirmed diagnosis, proposed investigations and management, and possible complications.

The charter also gives patients the right to seek the second opinion from an appropriate clinician and the treating hospital should all necessary records and information required for seeking such opinion without any extra cost or delay. The charter also makes it must that a patient cannot be 'detained' in a hospital on the grounds of dispute in payment of hospital charges. Similarly, hospitals cannot keep the 'body' of the patient against the wishes of caretakers on procedural grounds, including non-payment/dispute regarding payment of hospital charges.

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