Rights of Patients & Service Users

Written by neal litherland
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Rights of Patients & Service Users
Patients have a number of rights that need to be respected by an institution. (sad psychiatric patient image by Tristano Ajmone from Fotolia.com)

When someone is a patient or a service user, it means that person is receiving treatment or services from a medical institution. However, just because someone happens to be a patient, it doesn't mean that person doesn't have rights that should be respected by the institution providing treatment.

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A person's right to privacy doesn't go away simply because that person becomes a patient in a medical institution. Patients have the right to refuse unnecessary contact with people, and it's important doctors and nurses comport themselves with courtesy to respect that privacy. Knocking before entering, and giving patients time to themselves when it's asked for, especially for time alone with visitors, is not only professional, but it's written into many codes of conduct in hospitals.


A person's right to be independent likewise doesn't vanish into thin air once that person becomes a patient. In fact, it's a bad idea to try and quell a person's independence when that can be avoided. If a patient becomes dependent on staff members, it makes the recovery process harder. While operating within the rules and guidelines set by the institution, patients and service users should be encouraged to make their own decisions and to plan their own activities without the need for constantly consulting the staff.


Similar to independence, the right of choice is the ability of a person to exert their will over their own schedule. For instance, having a regular "lights out" time is something that erodes the right of choice because it's setting a schedule that might not work for all patients. Creating rigid time schedules or making a patient accept only a single form of treatment can impinge this right, since patients aren't prisoners and have the right to make their own decisions regarding their own time and their own treatments within legal bounds.

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